NDB announces Co-Valedictorians and Salutatorians

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The Catalyst / George Retelas

Genevieve Bencze

Genevieve Bencze has been a dedicated student and community member throughout her time at NDB. After four years of success, she has been recognized as Co-Valedictorian for the Class of 2021.

“I’m very excited [to be named co-valedictorian]. It’s something I’ve been working towards for all four years at Notre Dame, and I’m really happy that my hard work paid off,” Bencze shared.

While this achievement is important to her, Bencze feels that her proudest accomplishment from high school lies outside the classroom.

“I’d say I’m really proud of how much I’ve grown as a person and how high school shaped me and shaped my values,” said Bencze. “It helped me to see what I want out of my life and to see the person I want to be in the rest of my life.”

She credits her teachers and the community with helping her grow.

“I’ve had a lot of teachers who are very inspiring, particularly Mr. Loeffler and Dr. Hegarty,” she explained. “It’s an environment where I feel that I can grow without feeling like I need to hold myself back, and that’s the type of environment that has really helped me to thrive.”

Over her time at NDB she has been involved in many extracurriculars. Bencze serves as president of the Acapella Club and participates in the International Debate Club. She also takes private voice lessons, does musical theater, and is part of an acapella group outside of school. Most of all, she has applied her passion for social justice into her role in the community.

“I’m very social justice minded, so I bring that aspect of myself into everything I do, which I think is really good for the community because it helps others to learn about diversity and helps them to open their minds as well,” said Bencze.

She plans to continue to develop her interest in social justice with a focus on mental health in the coming years. She is attending UCLA in the fall and will study either psychology or social work.

“I’ve had a lot of mental health struggles myself, and in figuring out how to manage those, I’ve kind of learned to analyze my past experiences and think about how those impact the person that I am,” Bencze added. “Reflecting on that made me want to learn more about how the brain works because I just think it’s so fascinating how everything we encounter impacts who we become.”

 

Sachi Bopardikar

Sachi Bopardikar has been named Co-Valedictorian for the NDB Class of 2021. The title is a testament to her hard work and commitment to her academic pursuits over her time in high school.

“I feel pretty excited [about being named co-valedictorian],” said Bopardikar. “All the effort I put into school paid off.”

Not only did Bopardikar succeed in challenging classes, she also was involved in many aspects of the school community. She was on the Ambassador Board for two years after being a club member during her freshman and sophomore years. She served on the Health and Wellness Board her sophomore year. After being in Key Club all four years, she had a leadership role on the board her senior year as the social media outreach coordinator. She was involved in the debate team. Still, the activity that stands out the most is Mock Trial.

Bopardikar was on the Mock Trial team for all four years of high school. Her junior year, she was co-captain, and senior year she became the full captain.

“I’d definitely say Mock Trial [helped me grow the most] because I think I grew so much from freshman year to the time where I was as a senior, both in skills and in public speaking and being able to talk really confidently, but also in leadership skills because I did have a really big leadership position,” Bopardikar shared. “I think I gained a lot leadership wise and I saw myself improve each year, like I used to be really, really stressed my freshman year. I would really be stressed before competitions and would cry and stuff, but then I kept going and I kept at it and I got a lot better over the years.”

Her role in Mock Trial has also allowed her to contribute to the NDB community in her own way.

“The biggest way [I’ve impacted the school community] I think was through the Mock Trial program because I feel like I put in a lot to the program to help it grow, but also through the different leadership positions I feel like it helped Notre Dame, or the community grow,” Bopardikar shared. “It was really nice to be able to help other freshmen who were in the same position as I was. It was really nice to have that leadership aspect where I could help people, and guide people through the program.”

Next year, Bopardikar will attend UCLA, where she is going to be a molecular biology and cellular biology major. She hopes to become a researcher, so she plans on going to graduate school in four years and getting her PhD.

 

Margaret O’Brien

Maggie O’Brien has earned the role of Co-Salutatorian this year. She has stood out as an exemplary student and contributed through her many activities.

“I was honestly kind of surprised that I got [co-salutatorian], and I’m so excited just to speak in front of my class at graduation and on Class Day,” said O’Brien. “And just to represent my class after this tough year, so I’m looking forward to it.”

O’Brien managed to succeed in difficult classes while also working at Trader Joe’s for 25 hours a week. Additionally, she was the president of the Ambassador Board, president of the Math Team and captain of the competitive Math Team. She also has played volleyball and beach volleyball at NDB and served on the Health and Wellness Board.

“I definitely think [these activities] shaped me into the person that I am today… They really develop my strength, sense of identity, and understanding of what I’m really passionate about,” she explained. “I didn’t know I was really passionate about math until a few years ago, and now I really like doing math. I developed stronger relationships with my teachers and peers because of that.”

O’Brien plans to pursue her interest in math and science in the future. She will be attending the University of Washington and is hoping to study data science or neuroscience.

“For neuroscience, it was Ms. Nguyen freshman year who inspired my interest, she taught me in biology… And then for math, it was definitely Mr. Loeffler for the past two years in Precalculus Honors and AP Calculus, his classes were really just inspiring and I developed a really strong relationship with him and he’s really nurtured me through the past two years and helped me through COVID and everything, so I’m really grateful to him,” she shared.

Throughout her time at NDB, O’Brien has achieved a lot, but she feels that her proudest accomplishment is who she has become. After recently leading a Zoom call for the Ambassador Board where she spoke to many people, including many parents, she realized how much her time in high school has helped her find confidence.

“I would say [I’m proudest of] how far I’ve come, just as a person. Seeing my confidence from a few weeks ago compared to four years ago is just a crazy difference and I think that’s my proudest accomplishment,” O’Brien reflected. “I just think that the sense of sisterhood and belonging here has really helped me find my sense of self, and really find who I am as an individual and prepared me for college.”

 

Ashlin O’Riordan

Not only is Ashlin O’Riordan a dedicated athlete and a leader, she is also a committed student. Her accomplishments throughout her high school years have led her to be named Co-Salutatorian for the NDB Class of 2021.

“I was so happy when I found out [I was co-salutatorian]. I literally never wake up early, so when I woke up at nine because my dogs were barking, I looked at my email and literally jumped out of bed, I was running around my house,” shared O’Riordan.

O’Riordan is proud to have been able to achieve academic success and be a leader for the school.

“I’ve been able to keep up really good grades so I’m very happy that I was able to do that, and I’m also proud of my leadership roles, like this year I’m senior class president, which was super cool,” O’Riordan said. “I’ve also been on a bunch of boards like MARCOM, Health and Wellness, and homeroom president for three years. I’ve just helped out a lot so I’m proud to have been able to give back to the school.”

In addition to her leadership positions, O’Riordan also volunteered at St. Bartholomew’s Parish in San Mateo every week for the three years. She was a teacher this year, and served as a teaching assistant for the last two years.

O’Riordan has been on NDB’s varsity volleyball team for three years after being brought up from JV her sophomore year. She plays club volleyball and beach volleyball as well.

“Walking into freshman year, everyone told me just get involved, so I’m just happy I took every opportunity that was presented to me and just went with it,” O’Riordan stated. “Even though I was stretched thin sometimes I’m still very happy to look back and say that I’ve done, mostly accomplishments that I was able to pull off.”

Next year, O’Riordan will be attending the University of California, Berkeley and will be majoring in applied math. She hopes to get a master’s in engineering since she is interested in aerospace engineering.

While she is excited for her future endeavors, O’Riordan is grateful for her time at NDB.

“It’s had a huge impact on me over these last four years. I could probably say I’m friends with a lot of the kids here, I love each and every one of them,” said O’Riordan. “I’m happy to be saying, as salutatorian and class president, that I’m representing the school in our grade, so that’s been an honor… Mostly I would say that I’m grateful for everyone in my class for being in my class and standing with me for the last four years.”

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