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Top students pursue their passions

Posted Friday, May 20, 2022 —


En-Ya Shen, Valedictorian


Although this year’s valedictorian will spend the next few years in Boston, she may someday find herself walking the halls of her alma mater again. Her next time at Geneva High School, though, she could be the teacher instead of the student, or even, someday, the superintendent.


En-Ya Shen, the daughter of Wei Shen and Yingzhen Yang, will attend Boston College in Massachusetts for secondary education, and plans to begin her career teaching — probably math, she says.


It was volunteer work that led En-Ya to consider a career in education. “I volunteered at the HWS Kinder Camp,” she said. The summer program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges combines academic instruction with hands-on experience for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. “I realized how much I like working with kids,” said En-Ya. 


“I’ve thrived pretty well in the school environment,” she said. “I want to help other people thrive at their school.”


En-Ya also plans to pursue the arts in college, possibly joining a dance team. Her experiences in Geneva High Drama Club and at St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy contributed to that love. “The whole cast felt like a family,” she said, referring to the recent performance of SpongeBob the Musical. And St. Peter’s, she said, is something she basically grew up with. “Being in that community is really good.”


En-Ya encourages her classmates to focus on what they love as well. “Just focus on the things you really like doing because it doesn’t feel like a burden,” she said. In considering teachers who had shaped her experience at Geneva, En-Ya was hard-pressed to single out just one, but gives special mention to Stacey Baxter, her middle school English language arts teacher, and Julie Bailey, middle school physical education teacher.


Sally Young, Salutatorian


This year’s salutatorian, Sally Young, hopes to combine a variety of passions into one to build her future.


“I’m planning to go to law school,” Sally explained, but admitted she is not actually sure she wants to be a lawyer. “I was thinking I could also go into journalism with a law degree. It’s kind of like combining the things that I love — I love writing and reading and using logic, and I’d also be able to help people through writing. ... I’ve always been an advocate for equality, particularly gender equality.”


Sally, the daughter of John Young and Erin Griffiths, will attend Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.


Sally’s success in education began at an early age. In fact, she credits her approach to learning to her kindergarten teacher, Deborah Sindoni. “She made me believe that I was smart, and made me take academics seriously, even that long ago,” said Sally. A few other educators have helped her along the way, including, most recently, English teacher George Goga and music teacher Matthew Craig at Geneva High School. “Mr. Goga was really supportive of my writing,” said Sally. “For the first time in his class, I felt like I could go forward with English and be successful. Then Mr. Craig — singing has always been a passion of mine, and he believed in me with that, which was really nice.”


But while academics have always been important to Sally, she advises classmates to also prioritize mental health, especially with all of the challenges Covid continues to bring. “Find a balance between keeping your grades up and also making friends,” she said.