South Orangetown Central School District

Congratulations to Tappan Zee High School Class of 2019 Valedictorian Palak Oza and Salutatorian Cassandra Bartels! “We’re just so thrilled to recognize the hard work and excellence these students have demonstrated here at TZ,” says Principal Dr. Jennifer Amos. “They are not only models of high achievement, but of great character, as well.”

After a few spontaneous family RV trips this summer, Palak will be entering a BS/MD program this fall, and is the process of deciding between two schools. Also known as “direct medical programs,” BS/MD programs are highly competitive and accept high school students to a seven-year course of study from which they graduate with both Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Medicine degrees. Palak says growing up with parents in medicine and engineering in a home where everyday discussions might involve medical procedures or Bernoulli’s principle gave her “a sense of comfort in those types of conversations.” Last year, she traveled to rural India with her father to volunteer in medical camps providing care to underserved communities. “The interaction with patients and seeing how small things that we do routinely in the West make a real difference in people’s lives inspired me,” Palak says.

Cassie is headed to Barnard College, where she plans to major in Earth and Environmental Sciences. She has “always had a passion for the ocean,” and has spent the past few summers working with Professor Jerry McManus as an intern with the Center for Climate and Life at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Last summer, she conducted research on the preservation of calcium carbonate in the Pacific Ocean during interglacial time scales using core samples taken in the 1960s on the same research vessel that was used to discover the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Cassie cites the groundbreaking American geologist and oceanographic cartographer Marie Tharp as an inspiration. “I’m really inspired by Marie Tharp because she was unafraid, loved learning and was a hard worker,” Cassie notes, adding that her senior yearbook quote is Tharp’s. “It’s about having a ‘blank canvas to fill with extraordinary possibilities.’”

Although they are eager to embark on the next step in their futures, Palak and Cassie reflected on their time at Tappan Zee High School. “I’m going to miss the teachers—Mrs. Corcoran, Ms. Arietta, and Mr. Rossi—they really go out of their way to be there for their students…and Ms. Holzer, who was there for every single question I had!” Palak laughs. “I’m going to miss the people the most. I’ve become friends with a lot of people this year who I hadn’t been friends with before, and it drew me in closer to our community here,” says Cassie.

Cassandra Bartels and Palak Oza

Above, Class of 2019 Salutatorian Cassandra Bartels (left) and Valedictorian Palak Oza (right).