Q&As with Class of 2023 valedictorian & salutatorian


Photos by Lily Minish

Seniors Priya Shah, left, and Dante Ragusa were named as valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, for the Class of 2023.

Priya Shah – Valedictorian

What helped you in your success?

I think my family and my teachers have helped the most in my success. My family has always encouraged me to be ambitious, but they have also helped me relax. Additionally, I think they were very influential in developing my curiosity from a young age. Without them, I definitely would not enjoy reading and learning as much as I do. Secondly, my teachers have usually been more than willing to answer my questions and discuss different topics with me, which has pushed me to work harder in some classes. Knowing that they care about how I am learning in their class makes me feel much more confident and interested in their classes. 

What were your initial feelings when you were told you were valedictorian?

When I was first told I was valedictorian, I felt shocked. I knew I had worked hard throughout high school to get high grades, but I did not think I would be able to achieve so much. After some time I felt kind of relieved too, as it was a very nice feeling to have my hard work acknowledged. Also, I felt super excited to tell my family – I knew they would be super happy for me and could not wait to celebrate!

What is the most exciting part of being valedictorian?

The most exciting – and daunting – part of being valedictorian is probably giving a speech at graduation. I am excited to be able to write about my class and speak in front of so many people, but it seems pretty overwhelming when so many people I know will be in the audience. I am also excited to tell my friends and family since they have been super supportive and wanted to celebrate with me.

What advice would you give to someone?

In terms of advice, I think I would tell anyone to study what they’re interested in. In a lot of the classes I took, I realized that I did the best when I was actually interested in what we were learning. In this way, I also think it would be important to explore different things even if they are a challenge. For example, when I took Art History my sophomore year the memorization and new types of analysis made it difficult, but eventually I started to appreciate the class and it has become something I do want to study in the future.


Dante Ragusa – Salutatorian

What helped you in your success?

I’m extremely thankful for my family and friends who stood by me every step of the way. Without their support I probably would have run out of academic willpower a few months into Sophomore year (cohort learning).

What were your initial feelings when you were told you were salutatorian?

Joy and relief. I could finally stop stressing myself out so much.

What is the most exciting part of being salutatorian?

I’m really grateful for the opportunity to deliver a graduation speech, and I feel it would be a great way to wrap up my high school experience.

What advice would you give to someone?

No matter how badly a day goes, as long as you get a good night’s sleep, you at least did something right. I wish I had followed this advice more often throughout high school.