Ashley Roth and Kathryn Postiglione may seem at first glance like two typical childhood friends, but on closer examination, you quickly realize they are far from ordinary. On Feb. 12, the pair were announced as valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of Lynbrook High School’s class of 2021.
“The Room 35 Achievers,” as their second-grade teacher, Marianna Flannery, fittingly called them, have long welcomed any academic challenge, and worked to maintain a collaborative, rather than competitive, relationship.
“Watching Kathryn do something really great pushes me and inspires me, but not in a competitive nature,” Roth said.
Postiglione shared a similar sentiment. “We love to watch each other and everyone in our class succeed,” she said.
Roth has maintained a rigorous work ethic, whether in her competitive ballet studio, her work in science research or her late-night study sessions that help her survive a dense honors and Advanced Placement courseload. Passionate about science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, Roth has been involved in the LHS science research class, the mathletes team and the Science Olympiad competition for several years. She has also been recognized as an A.P. Scholar with Distinction.
This year, her classmates elected her president of both the Science National Honor Society and the National Honor Society, which she said she considers her greatest accomplishment and most gratifying recognition.
“Being elected to these positions really let me know that my peers recognize me as someone who can lead,” Roth said. “It’s so important for me to know that they realize I’m always here to lend a helping hand, and if they text me at 2 a.m. because they’re having trouble with math homework, I’ll be there to help.”
As president, Roth has devoted her time to exploring creative ways to maintain the traditions of the honor societies, as the coronavirus pandemic posed quite a roadblock to fundraising and community service opportunities. She has organized socially distant honor society inductions, a toy drive and remote tutoring sessions. “It has been hard, but such a fun challenge,” Roth said. Additionally, she has spent the past two years volunteering at the nonprofit BackYard Players and Friends in Rockville Centre, which provides art classes, dance lessons and other creative activities to young adults with special needs. She said that her time as a volunteer has been an extremely rewarding experience.
Combining her love for science and passion for helping those in need, Roth said she plans to study biology or neuroscience in college in the hope of later attending medical school and becoming a neurosurgeon. She said that her greatest motivation for entering such a male-dominated field has been Katherine Johnson, one of the first female African-American mathematicians to work at NASA.
“Her role in breaking barriers for women and people of color inspires me to live at the forefront and continually push forward, beyond what anyone expects me to achieve,” Roth said.
Postiglione also has a strong passion for STEM, and has devoted much of her high school career to fulfilling her love for science research. She is a member of the mathletes team, the science research class, the Women in STEM club, the Science Olympiad and the Science National Honor Society. She has balanced these extracurriculars with her unyielding commitment to her classes, most of which have been honors and A.P. courses, and was recognized as an A.P. Scholar with Distinction.
LHS’s science research program has been a great medium for Postiglione’s interests as well as a place to form strong bonds with teachers and classmates.
“Science research is a really special class,” she said. “We have a community like nothing else in the high school.”
Postiglione added that her greatest mentor throughout high school has been research teacher Chuck Vessalico, who has offered her plenty of support and advice.
Postiglione has been a competitive soccer player throughout much of her life, participating in school and travel teams for years. She has also committed herself to her studies year-round. Last summer, she attended virtual classes through the Yale summer program in astrophysics, where she was granted remote control access to a telescope at Yale’s Leitner Observatory and collected data on Star Cluster Messier 39. She used this experience to then write a paper in LHS’s science research class titled “Analyzing the Photometry of Star Cluster Messier 39: Creation of Color Magnitude Diagram, Age Calculation, and Distance Measurement.”
Postiglione’s greatest accomplishment thus far has been the awards bestowed on her at science fairs. Two years in a row, she has been recognized as a semifinalist at the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium for science research.
Postiglione also has a strong passion for philanthropy, and has put her talents to good use by helping those in need. She is one of 20,000 volunteers in over 100 countries for an organization called e-NABLE, which creates prosthetic hands with 3D-printed parts. Postilgione’s job has been to assemble the parts, which are then delivered to children and adults in need. She said she hopes to one day apply her engineering skills to the field of electrical engineering or computer science.
Asked what advice they would offer incoming freshmen, they offered a similar theme.
“No matter how many people say, ‘Why are you studying so much?’ and ‘You should stop working so hard,’ keep doing what you’re passionate about, and don’t let anyone get in the way of that,” Roth said.
Postiglione added that staying confident and surrounding oneself with supportive people is “the key to success.”
Both expressed gratitude to their teachers and peers for their success at LHS, and Principal Joseph Rainis offered his praise for their accomplishments.
“Congratulations to each of you on this wonderful accomplishment,” he said. “You make us all very proud.”