Longtime Herricks friends head to Ivy League at top of class

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Setu Mehta (left) and Alan Chen are Herricks High School's valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

They first met as third-graders, and now they’re bound for the Ivy League.

Setu Mehta and Alan Chen, both 17-year-old New Hyde Park residents, are set to cross the stage Thursday as Herricks High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Mehta is bound for Harvard College, the undergraduate school at Harvard University, where she plans to study molecular and cellular biology.

Chen will attend Cornell University, where he will be studying in the school of engineering.

In addition to topping Herricks’ class of 2017, they were among the school’s five finalists in the national Regeneron Science Talent Search, and in February they placed at the regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium at York College in Queens.

Mehta has also been the varsity tennis captain, performed at Carnegie Hall with the school orchestra and participated in several clubs, once serving as president of the South Asian Student Association.

Mehta said she appreciates having gone to a school where students are open to new things and “create an environment conducive to change.”

“The biggest lesson I learned is that change happens, and you need to have a resilient mindset to accept and learn from it to succeed,” Mehta said in a written response to questions. “Keep your loved ones close and ask for help when you need it, no one is perfect.”

Chen has been involved with eight Herricks clubs, including Science Olympiad, the Tri-M Music Honor Society and the Dance Theater Club.

He said one of his most significant challenges in high school was balancing all his responsibilities, which sometimes required going out of his comfort zone.

But participating in many new activities gave Chen new perspectives, he said. One of the biggest lessons he’s learned is “to take advantage of every opportunity that I can find,” he said.

“At Herricks, challenging yourself academically is embraced, and that I value about the school because I have the chance to learn and meet many people who are just as motivated to excel,” Chen said in his written responses. “At the same time, students and teachers are also very supportive of each other, which makes it a good learning environment.”

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