Great Neck North High’s valedictorians, salutatorians find the balance for success

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Great Neck North High School senior Graelin Mandel said she and fellow senior Isabelle Sehati would always help each other when it came to completing homework and studying for tests.

With the two set to graduate as the school’s valedictorians on June 23, Mandel said it was something they had planned to do.

“We help each other in school, we always have if we had homework questions or questions on tests. We always worked really well together,” she said. “We said we wanted to be valedictorians together.”

Mandel said she was going to miss North High’s teachers and the extracurricular activities she participated in when she attends the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania next fall.

She was editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, vice president of the DECA business club, treasurer for the school’s science research club and president of model Congress.

Mandel said she particularly enjoyed what she did with the science research club, where students would come in on weekends to work together on various projects.

“I really loved coming in with the science research students on the weekend,” she said. “It’s a very vibrant and collaborative community of people interested in science and wanted to be there on a Saturday night.”

Mandel was both an Intel and Siemens science competition semifinalist for a project she worked on that studied brain activity of two individuals texting each other.

At the end of her junior year, she was chosen to write a book courtesy of the Nicole Krauss Foundation.

Mandel said her book “Where the Sandman Goes,” a collection of short stories and poems, was published last week.

She said that while she is involved in a lot of different clubs and activities on top of her schoolwork, she was always able to find a balance between the two.

“I think that it comes mainly from organization and enjoying everything I do,” Mandel said. “Nothing ever feels like a job or a task because I’m doing what I want to be doing.”

She said she is not fully decided, but thinks she will be studying behavioral economics and legal studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Sehati said she enjoyed her time at North High because there was a little bit of something for everybody.

“You had wonderful teachers, great extracurriculars, academics, athletics,” she said. “There is so much opportunity and so many options to choose from and I think it made it that much more of a homey place for me.”

“Anyone from Great Neck is privileged to go to a school like that,” she added.

Sehati said she was an “avid flutist,” having played with the school’s chamber music ensemble and after school orchestra and jazz ensembles.

She said that staying organized was the best way to balance schoolwork, extracurricular activities and a social life.

“Really staying organized, setting your priorities, generating lists and looking back at those to manage your time properly. Making time for family and friends is another challenge,” Sehati said. “You don’t always get it right, but you can go back and make it right.”

She said her favorite subject in school was history and her favorite course was Advanced Placement European History, which she took this year.

“I love history and I love the way it challenges me and makes me look at things in different perspectives,” Sehati said.

She will be attending Binghamton University in its scholars program in the fall, but is somewhat undecided on what educational path she will take.

While she said history was her passion, Sehati said she might want to study law as her mother is a lawyer.

“I’ve watched her and sat down with her and looked over cases with her,” she said. “Watching her grow up, she was really my inspiration.”

Sehati said she was grateful to be one of the school’s two valedictorians.

“I take this title humbly and I’m just so excited and blessed,” she said. “Great Neck North was a great help and I’m glad I got to be a big part of it.”

Leael Alishahian is North High’s salutatorian this year.

Alishahian was captain of the varsity field hockey and gymnastics teams, and also ran track in the spring.

She said playing on the school’s sports teams helped her stay focused on her schoolwork.

“It forced me to get a schedule and get my work done,” Alishahian said. “It provides the same determination that you need to complete work.”

She said one of her favorite moments at the school was her final gymnastics game, which she described as the “final goodbye” for her and the group of seniors who were also on the team.

North High’s efforts in allowing students to find what they love to do, Alishahian said, was a one of her favorite things about the school.

“They provided so many extracurriculars and clubs,” she said. “Even if you had an idea for a club and they didn’t have it, you can make one.”

Alishahian will also be attending the scholars program at Binghamton University, where she said she wants to study pre-med.

As for her future, she said her mind changes frequently on what career path she wants to take, but she wants to “make an impact on the community” around her.

Alishahian is the oldest of four siblings, and she said she tried to set a good example.

“I kind of paved the way for them while creating a high expectation for them,” she said.

North High’s graduation takes place on June 23 at 2:30 p.m. at the Tilles Center on the LIU Post campus.

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