Meet the Saugerties Class of 2017 valedictorian and salutatorian

Anna Marie Armstrong and Lilith Haig.

This will be the Saugerties High School’s 121st commencement ceremony.

The Saugerties High School Class of 2017 will receive its diplomas during a commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 24 at the school’s Washington Avenue Extension campus. This will be the Saugerties High School’s 121st commencement ceremony.

The class will listen to talks by their valedictorian, Anna Marie Armstrong, and their salutatorian, Lilith Haig.

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Armstrong’s four-year cumulative grade point average is 101.13. She’s also served as both president and treasurer of Student Government, treasurer of Key Club, president of the National Honor Society, was a member of both Student Council and the Math Team, and was on the varsity cross-country and golf teams. Outside school, Armstrong has volunteered as a teacher’s assistant and confirmation retreat leader for her church and her ballet center.

Armstrong attended Cahill Elementary. Even early on, she felt like she was in a school district well-suited to academic achievement. “I feel like all the teachers in Saugerties helped push me,” Armstrong said. “They realize everyone has potential and they all wanted us to do our best. It was the atmosphere.”

In the fall, Armstrong is headed to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, where she plans to study mathematics with a focus on actuarial science.

From early childhood, Armstrong connected with math. “I understand it,” she said. “Ever since I was little, I’ve played with numbers in my head. Walking down the street, I played with the addresses on mailboxes. It clicks.”

She expects her course of study will give her a wide range of career choices. “I would like to go into data analysis, actuarial science,” she said. “Most actuaries work with insurance companies, but pretty much any company has someone who works with data analysis, so there are many options for me.”

While she’s begun working on her graduation speech, Armstrong said she’s trying not to overthink having to get up in front of the crowd to give it. “I’m a little nervous,” she said. “Three thousand people seems like a lot.”

Haig earned a four-year cumulative grade point average of 101.012, and served as secretary of the Student Council and as a member of the National Honor Society, Math Team and Key Club. She was also the captain of the Sawyers’ varsity girls’ soccer team.

After attending elementary school at Grant D. Morse, Haig moved on to junior high. Two years later, she said she and Armstrong seemed to be going down a course that would make them top of their graduating class.

“I wasn’t really surprised,” Haig said. “We kind of had an idea since ninth grade. I was content with it. I was proud of myself, definitely. But it wasn’t a big deal. Me and Annie have been up there since day one.”

Though she considered other schools, Haig will attend Union College in Schenectady, where she’s planning on taking an interdisciplinary major in psychology, neuroscience and computer science.

“Honestly, it was kind of like a dream school for me,” she said of Union College. “Everything was really beautiful, and it seemed like there were a lot of great opportunities. But the tuition was really out of range so I never really looked into it. But I applied just to see what would happen and they ended up basically giving me a full ride, so it really changed things for me. I’m really excited to go and take advantage of all the opportunities I’m going to have.”

Like Armstrong, Haig said she expects to spend at least some of her summer working, but will also make time for graduation parties and spending time with friends before they all go off to college. “And my pre-orientation I’m going to do community service in Schenectady for a couple of days,” she said.

Haig said she didn’t ever have difficulty finding time away from academics as a means of decompressing, largely because she enjoyed the rigors of school.

“School has never stressed me out all that much,” she explained, “I didn’t have a hard time balancing it with socce, because I was having fun the whole time. I didn’t mind the challenge.”

Haig said she finished her graduation speech this week. She acknowledged that getting up in front of a crowd wasn’t something with which she had much experience. “I’ve never spoken in front of more than 20 people before, so this will be a first,” she said. “I’m really excited about what I’m going to be saying, and I hope it resonates with people.”

Does she have any advice for younger kids who might like one day to find themselves at the top of their graduating class? Haig said they should work hard, but shouldn’t fret too much about where it’s going to lead.

“I know it’s ironic because I’m salutatorian, but I would tell them not to worry about their grades too much,” she said. “I would tell them, yes, study, work hard, put effort in. But I think growing up isn’t just about school, it’s about everything else. I would tell them to spend time finding their passion and doing what they love and to not let grades get the better of them.”

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