The top 15 students in Scotia-Glenville High School’s graduating class cut a diverse set of interests and future plans.
Many of them are pursuing degrees in the sciences, setting of on a track for careers in medicine. One is studying biology with hopes of becoming a veterinarian. One is going to Skidmore to play basketball and study to become a pediatrician. They will be playing collegiate lacrosse and soccer. One has their eye on moving to England to study history and business. Another plans to study entrepreneurship and own a business one day.
After graduation later this month, the top students will be fanning out across the country for college, from Albany to Tampa Bay, and setting out on careers in medicine, law, business and sustainability. But they all have one thing in common: The top 15 students at Scotia-Glenville this year are all young women.
“I feel like we know what we want to do,” said Elaina Elliot, who plans to study biology and psychology on a pre-med tack at Grand Valley State University in Michigan next year. She will also be rowing on the crew team.
If the Scotia-Glenville students are any indication, the generation of students on the verge of graduation won’t sit back and wait for pay equity or a chance at leadership positions. They know what they want and they plan to get it.
“Now, we are at a point in society where we are standing up to say this is not ok,” Elliot said of gender disparities in pay and leadership positions. “We are more accepting and are breaking down barriers… [I know] what I deserve, so if I’m not treated how I should, I can use my voice.”
Lise Williams, a high school guidance counselor, said she wasn’t surprised by the students who ended up in the top echelon of students, highlighting their wide involvement in activities, athletics and leadership within the school.
“When you know the names of the kids and their stories, it’s not surprising they are in the mix,” she said.
Nine out of the top 15 students last year were young men, Williams said, but the year before that there were just two boys ranking in the top of the class.
The students noted that over the years the number of boys in their advanced classes slowly diminished; in their senior year, a handful of girls, and only girls, toiled away in an AP Calculus course.
“As we get older, the boys are less interested in school,” said Mary Kate Palleschi, who will be going to Skidmore. “As we get older, girls know what we want.”
All of the top students started in the district as kindergartners – though one spent some time at a neighboring district – and one is graduating high school a year early. As young students, many of them served as Scotia scholars, distinguishing themselves as leaders of their class as early as fourth grade. They recalled how as elementary students they experimented and built wind turbines and launched small rockets, sparking an interest in the sciences.
“That’s what got me interested in renewable energy, and now I want to get a Ph.D. in sustainability,” said Katherine Hillis, who plans to study electrical engineering and sustainability at SUNY Stony Brook in the fall. Hillis spent a year of high school as a foreign exchange student in South Korea and plans to also study the language in college.
The top students also participated in the high school’s GIVE service learning program, volunteering around the region and developing a deeper sense of where their true passions lay.
“I think our generation will do the most to change everything,” said Palleschi, who volunteered with children with disabilities through the program and now wants to work with similar children as a pediatrician. “We want to make change in everything.”
The students also took advantage of the BOCES New Visions program, with a handful of them studying a program for students interested in health care careers.
“There’s a lot of really passionate people in this group, whatever they do they will do with their all,” said Julianna Karhan, who will be study psychology and Christian ministries at Messiah College in Pennsylvania next year.
It’s not just in Scotia where girls are dominating the top of graduating classes or otherwise leading the way: the top two students at Saratoga Springs High School and in Stillwater schools are both young women.
Republican Morgan Zegers, a Ballston Spa graduate who this spring graduated from American University, is running for the state Assembly, a representation of a national trend that has drawn more and more women into the political fray in both parties.
And the ranks of student activists who organized and led walkouts and protests across the Capital Region throughout the spring were dominated by young women.
“This year the ladies definitely outshined the guys at the top,” said Scotia-Glenville High School Principal Pete Bednarek, pointing out that most of the top students are pursuing studies in the the sciences. “They are going into fields in the past we were concerned about being dominated by men.”
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