The three seniors who’ve earned top academic honors as members of the graduating class of 2017 are Valedictorian Connor Rivage, Salutatorian Jessica Martinez-Peraza and Honorable Mention Nia Hamlin. These three students have a lot in common. In fact, they’re friends. They spend considerable time together outside of school in addition to the many advanced courses they take together. Their recognition as the highest achieving students in their class is hard-earned and well-deserved. While they plan to attend three different schools in the fall, they all agree that their Cohoes roots will keep them connected to each other for years to come.
“These three are bright, friendly and well-rounded young adults,” said CHS Principal Bryan Wood. “They work hard, challenge themselves and each other, and I have no doubt they will all be extraordinarily successful in college and beyond. The teachers, staff and myself are incredibly proud of them.”
Connor Rivage – Valedictorian
Connor Rivage has selected Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute as his first choice for college. His acceptance at RPI comes as no surprise, with an impressive 96.47 GPA. The valedictorian plans to pursue a career as a chemical engineer after college. The thoughtful clarity of his career path stems from a recent meet-up with RPI graduates who currently work with his older sister at Regeneron, a biopharmaceutical company in nearby Renssalaer.
Connor is a year-round soccer player and enjoys his time spent with Nia and Jess, two of his favorite people at Cohoes High School. His many accomplishments include almost one semester of college credit before graduation (potentially 12 credits, after AP exams later this month) and being honored at CASDA’s Annual Scholars’ Recognition Dinner on May 17.
The CASDA dinner honors outstanding scholastic achievement by members of the Class of 2017 of schools in 11 neighboring counties. Students are selected by their school based on scholarship, leadership and service to the school and the community. Each student also invites the teacher who has had the most significant influence on them. CHS Math Teacher Leader Lisa Volland will accompany Connor to the dinner later this month.
“Connor is a math genius,” said Principal Wood. “He knows Pi to the umpteenth decimal point. He has an incredible mind and is going far with his knowledge and abilities.”
Connor will also receive a $1,500 New York State Board of Regents Scholarship for Academic Excellence for his high academic caliber.
Jessica Martinez-Peraza – Salutatorian
Jessica Martinez-Peraza will attend Ithaca College in the fall. The first generation college goer, whose parents are immigrants from El Salvador, is enrolled in the Occupational Therapy program and would like to become a therapist helping patients in a rehabilitation center in the distant future.
Jess’s cumulative average of 95.91 earned her the salutatorian of the Class of 2017, and her grades reflect her determination and commitment to succeed. Her rigorous course load in high school includes earning nearly a full year of college credit before graduation. She has excelled in multiple advanced courses, successfully passing AP exams, completing college-level Spanish as well as the illustrious Science Research course held over the course of three years.
While her accomplishments in the classroom are plenty, her academic success and work ethic alone do not define her character. Jess is Student Council President, National Honor Society President, plays soccer and runs track. She’s involved in community service club and character education club. In the National Honor Society, she has been an integral participant in the recently introduced “Students Helping Seniors With Technology” program, where she meets once a week with senior citizens at the Cohoes Senior Center to assist and teach technology.
“Some need help with moving photos, setting up their iPad or with Facebook,” explained Jess. “Every week, the needs are different…it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had here.”
She feels the end of her high school years nearing and describes the time as bittersweet, acknowledging the eagerness to leave when graduation seems far away as a ninth grader, and then realizing, four years later, just how quickly that time went.
Jess is also a New York State Board of Regents Scholarship for Academic Excellence recipient and will receive $500 toward college this fall.
Nia Hamlin – Honorable Mention
Nia Hamlin is the honorable mention of the Class of 2017. With a cumulative GPA of 95.62, she is just 0.3 points behind Jess Martinez-Peraza and she’s okay with that.
“Jess and I have been friends since freshman year,” explained Nia. “She asked if she could sit next to me on the first day of science class and that was really it!”
Nia plans to major in radiology and play soccer for Southern Vermont College in Bennington in the fall. She also has career goals in the health field, but is uncertain of whether her future medical certifications will lead to helping humans or helping animals. She is an avid animal lover, with several pets and a strong desire to help them. Part of her reasoning for selecting Southern Vermont College was the clinical program in radiology and the school’s preparation for its students taking the medical boards. A 100 percent pass rate was a hard statistic to overlook.
Nia is also entering college with more than a semester’s worth of college credit before graduation, but she is quick to admit earning them did not always come easy to her. She worked really hard to succeed. She also got by with a little help from her friends.
“It’s great, all of us being in the same classes,” she said. “We’re on the same wavelength and it’s easy to ask them to explain something, or for help, when I know they get it.”
Nia is Student Council Vice President and National Honor Society Vice President. She’s also in the international club. She is excited for college, but knows she will miss the familiarity of the people and the hallways of Cohoes High School, as well as a few select teachers who’ve left an impression.
The Cohoes High School graduation is at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 24 at Hudson Valley Community College.