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Class of 2023 Valedictorian and Salutatorian Announced

By Eva Mandelbaum

March 3, 2023

Pictured from left to right: School counselor Marcos Monteagudo, Valedictorian Damian Kemna, Principal Martinez, Salutatorian Vinn Nguyen, and school counselor Genevive Little

WHITE PLAINS--The White Plains High School's Class of 2023 Valedictorian and Salutatorian have been announced: Damien Kemna (Valedictorian) and Vinn Nguyen (Salutatorian) are the extremely hard workers who have made it to the top of their class.

Both Damien and Vinn are proud of this momentous accomplishment. “I am extremely honored to be the salutatorian of the Class of 2023. When I first found out by checking updated rankings in Naviance, I was elated but also grateful to my teachers, my counselor, my family, my friends, and everyone else who has supported me throughout my high school career,” Vinn explained.

Damien shares this same sense of pride and gratitude. He said what motivated him in high school was his friends and his goals. “My friends helped challenge me to learn the information, while my goals helped keep me on track,” he said.

Damien and Vinn put their all into their schoolwork and worked extremely hard throughout high school, but their genuine love of learning and school is what got them even further. Damien loves science, especially physics and biology.

“Both subjects really capture my attention in different ways. I fell in love with biology from National Geographic and watched tons of nature documentaries. I find myself detached from nature often, and by studying biology I can connect back to it. As for physics, there is some pull to try to understand how everything works around us. From the smallest scale of particle physics to the grandest of astrophysics, there exists an enigma that is yet to be solved,” he said.

Vinn explained that his love of school stems from the people.

“Getting the opportunity to not only learn alongside my peers but also truly connect with them on a personal level every day is something that I am not only forever grateful for but also what makes me excited for school,” he said.

In addition to his peers, Vinn’s sister holds a special place in his heart. “My older sister is the biggest inspiration in my life. Throughout my life she has always been there to support me and guide me whenever I felt lost. She always encouraged me to keep on learning and reach greater heights, which has always kept me motivated,” he shared.

Even with the support of peers, family, and friends, it can be challenging to excel in school, but Damien and Vinn shared some of their personal study tips that have led them to success. Damien recommends doing practice problems on the subject you are studying for and sleeping well before a test.

“Sleep is very important for knowledge retention, so don’t cut too much into sleep time for extra studying,” he advises.

Vinn’s favorite study tips are balance, time management, and asking for help when you need it.

“Throughout my high school career, I have always asked my friends and teachers to explain concepts to me outside of class time so I can fully grasp the material at hand,” he said.

Damien and Vinn and they both credit White Plains High School’s bountiful opportunities for helping them reach their academic goals. “The WPHS environment is unique in that it really helped create an environment similar to the outside world,” Damien said. “By having a unique student body, there is support for everyone and with support, comes a better education.”

Vinn explained, “The WPHS environment is definitely a unique one. By attending such a diverse school (total minority enrollment is 78%), I have gotten to meet people from all walks of life. Every single student has their own unique story about their upbringing and culture which makes the WPHS community incredibly vibrant and lively. As a senior, I have seen the uplifting impacts of WPHS’s melting-pot community which has only made me treasure diversity as a medium for community enrichment.”

Both students emphasized that although being at the top of their class is an honor, class rank is not everything.

"It's really easy to get worried about class ranks, especially when they first get released in junior year,” Damien said. “After a while, I stopped thinking about it, as my academic goal was to understand as much as possible, and therefore, my grades were good. I was more proud of my grades in each class individually rather than the number I was in the class.”

Vinn holds this same sentiment: “I am incredibly honored and humbled that I am the salutatorian of the Class of 2023 but in the end, it is just a title that does not define me as a person,” he shared. “I will continue to work towards my goal of helping ameliorate pressing environmental issues and I am grateful that White Plains Senior High School was a steppingstone that got me closer to my goal.”

As advice to underclassmen, Damien emphasized the importance of extracurricular activities. “High school is all about finding passions, and it’s important to step out of your academic comfort zone,” he said. “Explore and discover your interests, so that by the time you exit high school, you have an idea of what you want to do.”

Vinn’s advice to underclassmen is to keep in mind the message of the 2007 Disney film “Meet The Robinsons”: “Keep Moving Forward.” He said, “If you keep moving forward, you will eventually get to your goal irrespective of all the obstacles and challenges you faced along the way.”

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