The Saugerties Central School District has announced that Nicole Peters has been named valedictorian of the class of 2020 and Mark Danza is this year’s salutatorian.
Peters, the daughter of Patti and Phil Peters of Saugerties, earned top honors with a GPA of 101.96. During her high school career she maintained a rigorous academic schedule, including seven Advanced Placement courses and two college courses. A member of the National Honor Society, Art Club and the Math Team, Peters was elected class treasurer during her junior and senior years. She also served as a homeroom representative for student government every year since her sophomore year.
Her academic awards include: the National Merit Scholarship, the IBM Watson Scholarship award and the Scholar Athlete award.
The 17-year-old participated in track and field throughout high school, competing in shotput and discus. She also ran cross country as a freshman and played on the tennis team since her sophomore year.
Peters also volunteers at the Saugerties Food Pantry and tutors geometry students.
When she’s not working or doing homework, Peters can often be found participating in the Battle of the Books, a program offered through the Saugerties Public Library. Peters, along with other members of her Battle of the Books team, reads different books and then competes in a trivia tournament against other libraries. “It’s a great program, and it’s really fun,” she said.
Peters has mixed emotions regarding her senior year. “It’s strange to think that I probably won’t get to leave high school in the normal way because I won’t be there at all when it ends. I know none of this is as tragic as the disease itself, or as important as keeping everybody safe. Considering the alternative, I’m definitely not complaining that we’re shut down. This is a difficult time for all of us, but we can get through it together by being responsible,” she said.
This fall, Peters is planning on majoring in Computer Science at Northeastern University.
Salutatorian Mark Danza, whose GPA is 101.48, has taken seven AP courses and five college courses over the course of his high school career. He is the son of Sherri and Mark Danza of Saugerties.
Danza’s achievements include earning the Engineering Notebook award at the SeaPerch Underwater Robotics Competition in Grade 10 and receiving the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Medalist award in Grade 11. He is also a member of the National Honor Society.
When he is not studying, Danza enjoys playing soccer and making music. He played on the Saugerties junior varsity team in Grades 10 and 11 and on the varsity team in his senior year. In addition, he played percussion in the high school band and in an ensemble at SUNY Ulster.
The 17-year-old says highlights of his high school career include working as senior counselor for a camp hosted by the Technology Department in the summer of 2018. Over a four-week period, campers were introduced to a variety of STEM-related experiences, including CoDrones, underwater ROVs, VEX Clawbots, 3D modeling and 3D printing. “I put in over 100 hours of volunteer work between prep time and execution and the fulfillment of successful execution was well worth it,” he said.
Much of his volunteer work revolves around sharing his enthusiasm for technology. He has helped organize STEM-related events at the Saugerties Public Library, Saugerties Elementary Schools and for field trips. Currently, Danza is one of three students who are 3D printing plastic face shields for frontline workers, using a district-issued printer while at home.
Danza will be attending Rochester Institute of Technology, majoring in Computer Engineering.
Looking back on the last few months of his last year at Saugerties, Danza said, “Learning from home has not been a pleasurable experience, but it is clearly necessary for the safety of our community in the ongoing crisis. I see no other alternative than to accept the situation and remain as strong and diligent as manageable until it passes.”