Q&A with Class of 2017 Valedictorian and Salutatorian

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Valedictorian Marina Aweeda and salutatorian Katerina Jou of 2017 were honored at the Baccalaureate Awards Ceremony, which took place on June 5. Marina and Katrina shared a few things about Townsend Harris High School with The Classic.


Q: Which teacher has influenced you the most?

Marina: That question is a tough one, but if I had to narrow it down I’d say Mr. Canzoneri and Ms. Shen. Both of these teachers have encouraged me non-stop, and I’m so thankful to have them push me so much and help me reach my potential.

Katerina: For me, it’s really impossible to say which one teacher exactly influenced me the most. But the top would definitely be Mr. Owens, Mr. Lee, and Ms. Cooper, who not only sparked my interests in certain subjects and allowed me to love school even more, but also changed my attitude and level of hope toward my future.


Q: What is the most important thing you learned in THHS?

Marina: The most important thing I learned at Townsend is that the sky is literally the limit, nothing is impossible. It’s gonna suck sometimes and sometimes you’ll want to quit, but Townsend has taught me to keep pushing through it all and find that happy ending.

Katerina: The most important thing I learned in THHS was that I do have power. The THHS environment and everyone at THHS gave me the confidence to laugh every day and to work as hard as I can to go after everything I desired. The concept of possessing my own kind of power pushed me to step out of my small comfort zone and try, but it also helped me to understand what my limits were and what direction I wanted to head in, at least for my years in college and medical school.


Q: What advice would you give underclassmen?

Marina: I’d tell the underclassmen to enjoy every single day as much as they can. Despite all the stress, there’s so much joy in all the little things. Spend time with friends and talk to teachers, build connections because those are gonna last forever.

Katerina: Relax and sleep. Don’t be like me and stress about every little detail about every little project. Make more time to hang out with friends — that was definitely a regret I have after these four years, and high school is a fantastic place to find yourself if you spend time with other people. Try as much as you can so you may be able to discover your passions, and have an impression of what you want to achieve in college. Branch out in your community and network to have a sort of springboard into your future! Be happy and grateful that THHS is your home for however many years you have left, and take advantage of clubs, sports, anything that can relieve stress from the daily workload. Enjoy yourself, even if it means that you have to remind yourself every day of that by physically saying it.


Q: What is one of your best memories in THHS?

Marina: One of my best memories at Townsend Harris has got to be the senior trip and spending an incredible three days with my best friends and just having so much fun throughout.

Katerina: I definitely had so many great memories at THHS, but one that resonated with me was definitely after my first freshman mile. Mr. Hanson was keeping track of our times, and of course, mine was terrible, but after cooling down, he pulled me aside on the track and genuinely encouraged that if I just pushed myself a little more, I had the potential to do so much better. What was even better was that he said it with a smile, expressing a positivity that echoed through my time in his ninth and first band classes (I had an odd schedule makeover second semester). I remembered that I was always known for being the smiley freshman in gym, and to this day I have always used this a constant motivator for anything I ventured into at THHS. Little moments like these really helped culminate in an exciting, unique, high school experience.


Q: Where are you going to be attending school this coming fall?

Marina: I will be attending the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education Program.

Katerina: I will be attending the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at City College as part of a 7-year BS/MD program with the CUNY School of Medicine.