Zachary Lee, 17, may be the valedictorian for North High School, but academics was not the only thing that captured his heart.
“As much as I’ve loved the academics, getting involved with music and theater has really defined me over the years,” Lee said.
Lee’s involvement in theater and arts spanned much of his academic career. Starting in middle school, Lee found himself in school theater in almost every aspect, be it building the sets, creating art for plays, playing various instruments, acting or singing.
Lee served as a co-president of Junior Players and Tri-M Music Honor Society. Lee was also part of North High’s Chamber Music Society, Symphonic Band, Jazz Ensemble and International Thespian Society.
He also played a piano, sang in national choirs, and committed himself to musicals both inside the school and at the Great Neck Library. He also created and lead the Junior Players Improv Group.
“I’m basically one of the go-to people in theatre and music,” Lee said.
But the most rewarding part of the performing arts hasn’t necessarily been stardom, Lee said, but collaborating with others to “make something greater than they could on their own.”
Lee was accepted into Yale University, where he intends to continue with theater and study humanities next year. This, he said, is so he can better understand the fundamental truths about people and society.
“I’m very excited about that,” Lee said.
Joseph Taied, the salutatorian at Great Neck North High School, touched nearly aspect of academic life.
On the one hand, he is an athlete. Taied played varsity badminton, soccer, and track and field. He is also a musician, playing viola in the orchestra. Taied even worked on the school district’s financial advisory committee, math team and trivia club.
“The motivation behind most of my success has been naturally wanting to learn more and ask questions and really understand concepts in a way that will be beneficial to me,” Taied said.
But one of his strongest interests has always been math. Taied said this is because the humanities are “more subjective in nature” compared to mathematics.
“With every problem there’s a concrete answer, and if you know the formulas and how to apply them, you’ll eventually reach that indubitable answer,” Taied said.
This evolved into a particular interest in business in his senior year, he said.
Taied said much of his success comes from his parents, Iranian immigrants who fled the Iranian Revolution and emphasized education’s importance.
“They always thought for their kids to become educated and really reach new heights in this land of opportunity, and I feel like hearing their stories growing up put a chip on my shoulder to succeed,” he said.
Taied will attend New York University to study finance and accounting.