Oceanside High School valedictorian Matthew Friedman and salutatorian Courtney Murphy have adapted to the scholastic challenges that have arisen over the past year. Hybrid schedules and the stresses of applying to colleges and playing varsity sports during a pandemic have not stopped the two from balancing their commitments and finishing at the top of their class.
Friedman is a National Merit Scholarship finalist, eligible for one of 7,600 scholarships across the country. He is also recognized as an Hispanic Scholar by the College Board. He has attended the Science Honors Program at Columbia University and the NYU Collegiate Seminar. Friedman also received a Grand Award at the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair while holding an internship at Northwell Health.
Friedman is active in extracurricular clubs and sports, participating in model United Nations, the World Interest Club, Key Club, Science Olympiad and the varsity golf team. His final golf season is in progress, and Friedman said he has used golf to connect with friends during the pandemic.
Though he is uncertain where he will attend college, Friedman said he intends to pursue pre-medicine, with the goal of becoming a medical practitioner. He is still waiting to hear back from Boston University and Brown University before making his final decision, but he has been accepted by Hofstra University’s eight-year medical program.
Murphy, captain of the softball team since her sophomore year, earned a spot in the Oceanside High School Athletic Hall of Fame after taking home an All-County honorable mention in ninth grade and All-County honors in 10th grade. Her senior season, which begins in mid-April, has been shortened, but Murphy said she is grateful that she can finish her high school career.
“At least you have a season, so you have to look at the positives,” she said.
Giving back to the community is one of Murphy’s main goals, she said, noting she has spent time growing the game by teaching the fundamentals of the sport to special-needs children and participants in the Oceanside Fastpitch Little League through her varsity and travel softball teams.
Murphy, the youngest of five children in her family, said trying to reach her siblings’ high standards motivated her to succeed. In the fall, she will begin Adelphi University’s Honors Program, entering the accelerated five-year program in secondary education mathematics.
“I just love working with my classmates to figure out the problems, even if it means working for 20 minutes on one question,” Murphy said. “You get the answer and you feel really satisfied.”
She will also play softball at Adelphi.
Both students have worked to stay positive, despite an abrupt shift in how they are taught. Students are more easily distracted during Zoom classes, they noted.
“It’s hard to find that balance between motivating yourself to want to learn at home and then connecting with your teachers while in school,” Murphy said.
Friedman said he used the challenges of remote learning to motivate himself.
“For studying, it’s a lot more on you now,” he said. “Half the days, you’re not in school, so you don’t have that teacher pushing you to do everything.”
The son of two teachers, Friedman credited them with pushing him to succeed. “Even from an early point, they were motivating me and making sure that I have the mindset of really valuing my education,” he said.