Congratulations to Tappan Zee High School Class of 2020 Valedictorian Jason Olszewski and Salutatorian Hannah Ahn!
Olszewski and Ahn were notified of their achievements by Tappan Zee High School Principal Rudy Arietta via consecutive video conferences on Monday, with their parents and school counselors Jaime Holzer and Randy Altman on the calls. “Regardless of the school closure, we want to celebrate their accomplishments,” said Arietta. “These are incredibly well-rounded students who have worked hard throughout their high school careers. This recognition is well-deserved.”
Academically, Olszewski has earned exceptional honors every quarter of his high school career, was elected vice president of the National Honor Society chapter and is a 2020 National Merit Scholarship Commended student. He served as captain of the varsity lacrosse team for the past two seasons and garnered All-County honors in 2018 and 2019. Last fall, the four-year TZ Football veteran was named 2019 New York State Class A Football Scholar Athlete of the Year. Olszewski has volunteered in the New Bridge Medical Center Emergency Room since 2017 and with Tappan Zee Youth Lacrosse for the past two years.
“Jason has excelled at everything he has put his mind to, motivated by a healthy competitive edge and a desire to reach the high bar he consistently sets for himself,” Holzer said. “He competes with himself and not at the expense of others. Jason’s teachers and coaches will tell you that, in the classroom and on the field, he is a student and teammate who lifts others up.”
Ahn is a National Merit Scholarship Finalist, editor of Tapress and president of the Social Justice Club, Academic League and the school’s new Yoga Club, which she founded this year. A gifted artist, Ahn has earned national and regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for her work in a variety of media. She is the literary and art editor-in-chief of TONES, the high school’s award-winning literary magazine, and has received recognition from the Empire State Scholastic Press Awards for poetry, non-fiction writing and layout. For the past two years, Ahn has volunteered as a tour guide and youth art teacher at the Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center and as a tour guide/front desk staffer at the Belskie Museum of Art and Science.
Altman recalled coaching Ahn as a freshman on the Academic League team. “There was an obscure term that came up and nobody knew it–but Hannah did. I knew then that it was going to be a fun four years.”
Both students said that a strong sense of community has been a defining feature of their high school experiences. “Tappan Zee is a magical place once you really see the depths of it. Students and faculty alike are always looking to push you to be your best self while supporting you along the way. The communicative and collaborative environment has allowed me to find myself and become the person I am today,” Olszewski noted. “Outside of the classroom, athletics have been a part of my life for as a long as I can remember. Tappan Zee Athletics has given me an escape and a brotherhood within our TZHS family. Coming into high school I was diffident and hesitant, especially around the upperclassmen. That all changed when I was the only freshman to make the varsity lacrosse team. My older teammates took me in, showed me that it is OK to be myself, and brought me into their family. Since then, through football and lacrosse, I have formed bonds and made memories that I will cherish forever. Now, as a two-year varsity lacrosse captain, I lead by example as the upperclassmen before me did. This juggling act of varsity athletics and academic rigor that I have been performing throughout my four years of high school have enlightened me, brought out my true potential, and made my high school experience a memorable one.”
Ahn moved to South Orangetown in sixth grade. “I’m really glad that we moved here–it’s such a supportive community,” she reflected. “One thing I was struck by throughout high school was how supportive my teachers were and how many opportunities were afforded to me. Teachers were always available for extra help, or even just a chat. As a senior, it’s especially fun to stop by and talk to teachers (and my school counselor) about anything, from terrible dad jokes to philosophical life advice. I also really appreciated that there was such a variety of clubs. I joined 13 clubs at one point during freshman year, just so I could try things I was interested in. There really is something for everyone here.”
Each year, the students who earn the top two cumulative grade point averages from first quarter freshman year through second quarter senior year are named valedictorian and salutatorian. Valedictorians and salutatorians are eligible for scholarships through the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents and will deliver addresses at their commencement ceremony.
Olszewski and Ahn are each weighing their options for college. Olszewski intends to major in biomedical engineering. Hannah is considering chemistry, physics…or possibly economics.