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Lauren Azrin and Catherine Stanton Honored as Valedictorian and Salutatorian

By Eva Mandelbaum

The importance of anchoring in hope, grit, and hard work have been amplified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the hardships that have come along with it. White Plains High School’s Lauren Azrin and Cathy Stanton were announced as the Valedictorian and Salutatorian of the Class of 2021. Being at the top of their class during a year like no other, they are the embodiment of this message of hope.

Despite the challenges of virtual learning, Lauren and Cathy have managed to keep their motivation, hard work, and grades up. As we learn from this year’s Valedictorian and Salutatorian, with plenty of hard work and doing what you love, anything is possible!

Both Lauren and Cathy feel honored to have the notable titles of Valedictorian and Salutatorian. Lauren shared, “I am really happy and excited to be this year’s Valedictorian. When I first found out, I was really proud of myself because this honor represents years of hard work and dedication.” Cathy shares this pride and is also grateful for her experiences at White Plains High School with her peers and teachers. “I feel so lucky to have spent four years getting to know the members of such an amazing and passionate class, and it’s humbling to think about graduating beside them.”

Lauren and Cathy get their motivation to succeed from family and friends, role models, and a general love for learning. Cathy remarked, “I’m inspired by my grandmother, for whom I’m named. I never met her, but I know that she was a nuclear engineer, one of few women to enter what was then a cutting-edge field. Her example gives me confidence to pursue all my interests.” Cathy also indicated that a message shared by a piano teacher really stuck with her and continues to motivate her to succeed today. “When I was five, I had a piano teacher who said: ‘I want you to love what is difficult.’ In an academic setting, this looks like stepping outside of my comfort zone and into challenging classes, asking questions about the material before accepting it to be fact, and acknowledging my mistakes rather than dismissing them.”

Lauren commented, “I’ve always really enjoyed my classes, academics, and just learning in general. I think the motivation to do well just came along with that,” and she shares that her family and friends are her biggest supporters and inspire her to be her best every day.

If you think that being at the top of your class means there’s no time for fun, think again! Lauren is the Editor-in Chief of our school’s literary magazine, The Roar, and our school’s newspaper, The Orange. She is also the president of the Key Club and the Science Research Club. Lauren also participates in competitive gymnastics. Cathy is a synchronized swimmer and trains for more than 17 hours a week. She is also a classical clarinetist and dedicates hours to that per week.

Wondering how it's possible to juggle all these extracurriculars and keep your grades up? Lauren explained that she thinks the key to juggling schoolwork and extracurriculars is, “learning to prioritize different things at different times and taking time to plan and schedule.” Cathy thinks “effective time management looks different for everyone,” but for her, it means focusing on one thing at a time and doing it really well.

In case you’re wondering the best way to go about studying, Lauren and Cathy revealed their top study tips. Lauren’s is to keep a planner, and write everything in it, including schedules to help with time management. Cathy exposed the importance of starting early. She shared that starting to review notes on the first day of any unit and continuing to study a little more everyday breaks everything down into smaller tasks and has helped her target information she didn’t understand.

Between the wide range of courses available to students to the sense of community, the nurturing White Plains High School environment has encouraged Lauren and Cathy’s success. Lauren appreciates the wide range of available courses for students because it has allowed for her to explore and focus on her interests. She also shared that participating in so many clubs “have provided me with invaluable skills and experiences. I’m also really grateful for the amazing teachers at WPHS, who really care about and support their students, while always pushing and encouraging us to challenge ourselves.”

For Cathy, The WPHS environment impacted her as a student by providing many role models. She explained, “I’ve been a member of the marching band since my freshman year, so I grew really close with upperclassmen who could offer advice about a range of subjects. I imagine that all clubs, groups, and teams offer something similar, and since WPHS has such a vibrant extra-curricular life, every student has a chance to find a community with older students to learn from.”

There is no doubt that in Lauren Azrin and Cathy Stanton’s future successes, they will take their White Plains High School experiences with them.

Lauren and Cathy share values in hard work and doing what you love. Lauren revealed, “I would encourage all underclassmen to do things that really interest you – take elective classes, join new clubs, seize every opportunity to explore your interests, and, most importantly, try to enjoy it! High school will be over before you know it.”

If there’s anything you should take away from Lauren and Cathy, it is to take advantage of the amazing and bountiful opportunities you get as White Plains Tigers, but also to appreciate how far you’ve come, especially in an extraordinarily difficult year. As advice to underclassmen and White Plains Tigers, Cathy shared, “There is hope for post-pandemic normalcy on the horizon, but when it arrives, I want you never to forget all the times you’ve worked harder, gone the extra mile, this year. When you apply all of that extra energy to the things that were previously routine, you’ll be able to make a meaningful difference in your life and in the lives of others. And that difference is long overdue. I can’t wait to see the spectacular things that are ahead for each of you, and I wish you the best of luck!”

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