Emily Christiansen and Hilary Mulford are the valedictorian and salutatorian of the Saugerties High School Class of 2019. Both are scholars, athletes, jobholders and environmental advocates.
Christiansen, the daughter of Sarah and Samuel Christiansen, has a GPA of 101.23 and has completed eight advanced placement (AP) courses and two college courses during high school. A member of the French Club, Key Club, and National Honor Society, she is also the social director of the Student Council. Christiansen was varsity captain of the girls’ soccer team this year, and was a member of the varsity track team from freshman through junior years, helping the team win the Mid-Hudson Athletic League’s spring medley relay championship as a sophomore.
Outside school, Christiansen is a part-time receptionist at the Golden Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Kingston. “I sit at the front desk, so I’m the first person people see when they come into the building,” Christiansen said. “A lot of the time residents at Golden Hill they come out and talk to me because they don’t have someone to talk to. It’s about putting a friendly face on Golden Hill. And it’s taught me a lot about being friendly and open and talking to people I’ve never met before. And I get a lot of different perspectives on people’s lives.”
Mulford, the daughter of Becky and Steve Mulford, compiled a 100.99 GPA and has completed eight advanced placement (AP) courses and two college courses during high school. Mulford is president of the National Honor Society, and is a member of the French Club, Key Club, Student Government and Student Council. She was a delegate for the American Legion Auxiliary’s 2018 Girls State, a government-in-action training program.
Also a student-athlete, Mulford has been a four-year member of the volleyball and girls’ basketball teams, as well as running track from freshman through junior years, specializing in the 100-meter hurdles, long jump and triple jump.
Volleyball, where she was a two-time captain, was Mulford’s favorite. “I feel like I was able to be more of a leader in that sport because of my previous experience,” Mulford said.
Mulford has worked part-time at the Saugerties/Woodstock Journey KOA campground since the eighth grade.
In addition to academic excellence, the two stellar scholars share at least one other thing in common: They care deeply about the environment.
Christiansen is the president of the Eco Club, and Mulford its secretary. The club has seen its membership skyrocket over the past year. “It hasn’t really been a thing at Saugerties High School,” Christiansen said. “It was a small club and they mainly just went on hikes. It was a nice thing to do, but I joined it last year because I really care about the environment. I became vice-president last year, and I got together a field trip to go to the New York Aquarium. This year I became president and I worked really hard to grow the club. It has three times the members it had last year.”
Among the initiatives started by the Eco Club this year was a recycling program called “Clynk,” which is part of grocery store chain Hannaford’s efforts to encourage green thinking by helping clubs and organizations raise money.
Christiansen and Mulford are also planning on a course of environmental-based study in college. Christiansen, who will major in environmental science, was “pretty sure” she’d chosen Cornell University over Northeastern. “As of right now I’m really interested in the biodiversity issue and how climate change affects that,” she said. “I was looking into helping out with different non-profit organizations and seeing what different stuff I could do to help raise awareness for that. I want to do a lot of research to help other people understand issues with the environment.”
Mulford, who plans to study sustainable product design and sustainable studies or landscape architecture in college, is considering Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, or Cornell University. “It’s a little stressful, because deposits are due in two weeks,” she said this week. “I actually visited Cornell yesterday and fell in love with the program there. I’m waiting to hear back about some merit scholarships before I make my choice.”
Both Christiansen and Mulford said they’ve already started planning about their commencement speeches, even though graduation is still over two months away. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” said Christiansen. “I don’t want it to be boring: That’s definitely my top priority.”
Graduating from high school is a turning point for all students, many of whom, like Christiansen and Mulford, find it a bittersweet time. Christiansen said leaving high school for the next phase of her education is the culmination of plenty of hard work.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “It kind of feels like I worked really hard for all four years [of high school] to get to this point. And it’s finally coming, and that makes me happy. And I’m really glad to be moving on to a more concentrated form of education, because I’m going to be learning about what I would actually like to do in the future.”
Mulford is also looking toward the future, while at the same time considering how she’s reached this point. “I’m both excited and very nervous to be leaving Saugerties,” said Mulford. “Growing up in Saugerties I was always surrounded by supportive family members and teachers who were so involved with my education. They just want to see everybody succeed. And it was such a tight-knit community, and I really feel that’s why I was so successful in high school.
“I always had someone to turn to and there were always people there encouraging me. Going on to a big university or a smaller college, I’m going to be moving away from the people who have been supporting me my whole life. But I really feel it’s going to be a real test of what they’ve prepared for, how my success will carry on into the future. I’m sure that Saugerties has prepared me for a bigger role in the world.”