South Orangetown Central School District

#ProudTZGrad Jude Valens Paulemon (‘19) entered Tappan Zee High School as a junior in Fall 2017, after emigrating from Haiti. As a self-taught programmer, computer science helped Paulemon connect to his new school community. “In Haiti, I was mostly on a humanities track; there were no computer science courses at my school. At a certain point, I had to choose between devoting time to get A’s in my regular classes or use that time to learn programming, even if I wasn’t going to get a grade for it. When I came to TZ, that switched–I was able to focus on computer science for school. I had a great teacher, Mrs. (Karen) Connell. She further sparked my interest in computer science and I discovered things I hadn’t known before.”

Paulemon also joined the school’s then-rookie FIRST Robotics Competition team, SO BOTZ, and became a software engineering lead. He was awarded the Rochester Institute of Technology Computing Medal Scholarship at the end of junior year and the team earned its way to the FIRST World Championship in Detroit (and the next). “It’s really fulfilling to work with other people on building an amazing robot,” he said. “It was the first time I could see my code in a physical way–by the robot interacting with it–and it was exciting. I don’t think I would have fit into high school if I wasn’t doing some type of activity. I was able to meet and make friends with really interesting and kind people.”

After graduating from TZHS in 2019 with a New York State Seal of Biliteracy in French, Paulemon enrolled at RIT and was awarded a Founders Scholarship for exceptional academic achievement. He is currently pursuing a bachelor of science degree in software engineering.

“I first learned about RIT at a college fair at one of our regional robotics competitions. Mrs. Connell pushed me to check it out. I spoke to the rep, did some research and thought it’d be a good fit for me. I wanted to go to a school where there was an emphasis on what I wanted to do–software engineering–and where there would be people who shared that interest.”

RIT’s co-op requirement for engineering majors also attracted Paulemon, who landed a paid, six-month internship as a backend developer earlier this year with Lucid Motors, a luxury electric vehicle manufacturer headquartered in the Bay Area. “During the first two months, I worked on an authentication system for a future series of mobile apps and a future edition of the Lucid Air. Now I’m focused on embedded security and making sure that all the microcontrollers aboard the vehicle are secure.” The company began delivery of its Dream Edition, the launch version of the Lucid Air, on October 30.

While his co-op experience has been a tremendous growth opportunity, Paulemon looks forward to returning to RIT for the spring semester. “I really like my professors and the way they teach. I’ve heard people at other schools complain about huge lecture classes and that’s not been an issue for me. I’ve been able to personally connect with every single one of my professors and they’ve all been passionate about the subject matter and teaching in general.”

He encourages aspiring software engineers who are still in high school to push themselves to keep learning. “Take the time to explore on your own. What you learn in the classroom alone isn’t going to get you to the level you want to be,” Paulemon emphasized. “I started teaching myself how to program in middle school–mostly web languages, like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. I read a lot of blogs about software engineering, including networking and system programming, which led me to pick up Java. I didn’t get proficient with Java until I joined robotics and was able to apply it.”

“I spend a lot of time programming. If you ask me what I have been doing every night since 2012, I’ve been programming,” he laughed. “One of my big personal projects before I moved to the US was a music streaming website along with a blog about Haitian music. I worked on it for two years and it never got finished, but we had a workable version. By building that project, I learned how to build a database, host my own website and write PHP (a website scripting language).”

Looking ahead, Paulemon is considering a graduate degree in applied mathematics and aiming for a career in robotics or artificial intelligence. “I fell in love with robotics in high school and am still very interested in pursuing it as a career,” he reflected. “AI would also be exciting. It’s closely related to robotics and is still a relatively young field with lots of new discoveries to come.”

#ProudTZGrad Jude Paulemon