Schreiber valedictorians, salutatorian discuss Port Washington’s impact on future

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Schreiber's valedictorians from left Zachary Gruber and Ryan Siegel; and Dhiya Sani, Schreiber's salutatorian. (Photos courtesy of the students)

Schreiber High School’s valedictorians and salutatorian spoke of defining experiences in high school and the Port Washington community that helped set their path for the next four years and the further future. 

Valedictorian Zachary Gruber is heading to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, valedictorian Ryan Siegel will attend the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and salutatorian Dhiya Sani will make her way to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Gruber, who achieved a 5.19 weighted GPA throughout his time at Schreiber, said in an interview that he chose Vanderbilt because he was looking for a school that had academic excellence and a social element where he could have a good time. 

He said Schreiber’s “strong emphasis on community and collaboration” helped him realize he wanted to go to a college that is “social and fun” because it is not only about studying. 

He said when he visited Vanderbilt for Admitted Students Day, he talked to the other students, whom he described as amazing, and said he fell in love with the school. 

Gruber is interested in majoring in economics or computer science in college. 

Siegel, who also graduated with a 5.19 GPA, said in a separate interview that his involvement in the science research program, in which he has been doing research with the University of Pennsylvania, since the 10th grade helped set him on his path to studying health care management and policy. 

He said he also been working with the university’s dental school researching nanoparticle treatment for oral cancer.

Another contributing experience was the summer that Siegel spent at Oxford University for the Oxbridge Summer Tradition program where he learned how to integrate his interest in economics and business into his love for science. 

Sani, who graduated with a 5.18 GPA, said in an interview that she had a tough time picking where she wanted to go to college, and after all of her tours she had trouble finding anything she liked. She said she figured out that it was because she was so attached to her life at home. 

Then she said she remembered when she went into the area around Harvard and thinking of how it reminded her of Port Washington a bit and seemed like a place one might run into somebody they know on the street. 

Sani’s older sister also attends Harvard, and when they were walking around together she said her sister said hi to everyone walking by. 

“I didn’t want such a big school where I didn’t know anyone, but also didn’t want to be in a little bubble,” Sani said.

Sani is interested in studying biology at Harvard, but said the school doesn’t have a general biology major as other schools do and is entering as undecided. She said she is looking into the human development and regenerative biology major, after speaking with a student who really loved it.  

All three students were very active in the school and the Port Washington community. 

Gruber was the president of the high school chess team, which he said he joined when he was in the seventh grade at Weber Middle School and was the extracurricular activity he enjoyed the most. 

He was also involved with the debate team, which he described as the most intense extracurricular, but also one that was most important for his growth. 

He said that is where he fine-tuned his public speaking skills and also learned the skills of arguing and supporting his ideas with reason. 

Outside of school, Gruber is the author of a published research paper on implantable cardioverter defibrillator security. 

He said in the summer of his sophomore year, he wanted to get started on a research project because he figured he could find a professor to work with if he started the process early. 

For his research topic, he said he knew he wanted to look into something biological and with the body. In his research, he detailed how someone can hack into heart devices and how that translates into patient harm. 

His research was a part of a bigger program called CyberCardia, an organization that is working on a number of projects relating to heart devices, and was published for the International Conference of Cyber-Physical Systems.

Gruber also volunteered as a STEM enrichment community organizer with Adrienne Saur, who founded Kids Need Enrichment. He helps her set up different stations for students to come by and learn about STEM-related topics. 

Gruber finished out his high school career with the tennis team, playing with his fellow valedictorian Siegel and taking home the Long Island championship. 

Siegel said he and Gruber were doubles partners in tennis as well as teammates on the debate team. 

Siegel joined debate because he said he has always had an interest in public speaking and he wanted to improve. He said over the time on the team, he has learned about a range of different topics and thinks he has become a better speaker. 

Sani said the extracurricular that was most meaningful to her was her participation with the Portettes Dance and Kickline team, which she has been a member of throughout her time at Schreiber. 

However, Sani has made a meaningful impact on Long Island through an organization she co-founded in the eighth grade, Children’s Hope 3, where she raises funds to send children in homeless shelters to day camp in the summertime. 

She said summers are tough for children in shelters, who have their whole days open and can’t return to the shelter until 5 p.m., so the day camp provides them a routine.

Sani is also a dance instructor at the camp, Young People’s Day Came in Hicksville, and she said she loves getting to combine her love for dance with her love for community service. 

The organization also raised funds to support education access and provide resources to  children in India.

When it comes to work ethic, Gruber said it is important to recognize your weaknesses and try to prevent them from affecting your school work. 

He said for starters, make sure to get all of your work done because he sees a lot of students losing easy points for homework and not studying for quizzes. 

Siegel described himself as organized and said from a very young age, he has been taught by his parents that school comes first, and then friends and extracurriculars, which he said has stuck with him. 

Sani said she hates inefficiency. The minute she is assigned something she gets started that day and doesn’t let anything drag on and said she always meets with the teacher at least twice before the assignment is due. 

She also said, “I am always trying to push myself to be better than the old me.” 

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