Onteora names valedictorian, salutatorian and principal’s award winner

Emily Peck is the Principal’s Award Winner for the Onteora High School Class of 2021. (Photos courtesy of Ulster BOCES)

Onteora High School (OHS) has announced that Simon Rands is valedictorian, Archie Lewis-Harris is salutatorian, and Emily Peck is the principal’s award winner for the Class of 2021.  OHS Principal Lance Edelman is  proud of these three honorees. “They possess all of the qualities that we hope for in our students,” he said. “They are exemplary students who have positive attitudes, thrive when challenged, have optimistic perspectives and are strong student ambassadors.”

Valedictorian Simon Rands

Simon, the son of Rachel Remler and Tim Rands of Woodstock, leads his class with a weighted grade point average (GPA) of 100.45.1. He achieved this feat while maintaining a rigorous academic schedule that included eight advanced placement (AP) classes during the course of his high school career.

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Outside of the classroom, Rand’s activities included volunteering with the Ulster Immigrant Defense Network. He also served as copy editor of The Talon (the High school newspaper), vice president of the National Honor Society, and captain of the varsity soccer team (since 10th grade). Rand, the recipient of a MHAL (Mid-Hudson Athletic League) Senior Scholar Athlete Award, has thoroughly enjoyed this year’s soccer season, despite the fact that the team is low on numbers and the players are all required to wear masks on the playing field. “We haven’t won yet, but it’s been fun!” he said.

Rand, who is still waiting to hear from a number of colleges and universities, is unsure about his future major, though he is particularly interested in science, environmental justice and climate change.

Rands looks back with fondness at his Onteora education. “The best thing for me about Onteora was how small the classes were,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of classes with the same kids since 10th grade. We really know each other and we feel comfortable learning from each other.”

The small class sizes also allow students to develop personal relationships with their teachers, he said, which in turn makes it easier to learn. Among his favorite teachers, he said, were math teacher Jessica Morra and chemistry teacher Bryan Keenan. “Ms. Morra makes it easy to learn and love math,” he said, “and Mr. Keenan just loves chemistry and science so much that you can’t not also like it. He makes it fun!”

Archie Lewis-Harris is Salutatorian for the Onteora High School Class of 2021.

Salutatorian Archie Lewis-Harris

Archie, the son of Donna Lewis-Harris and Martin Harris of Bearsville, achieved a weighted GPA of 99.968 while juggling a challenging course load (including numerous AP classes) and extracurricular activities like varsity tennis, National Honor Society, Science Olympiad and jazz band.

Lewis-Harris, who has a passion for music, also played in the pit orchestra for three OHS musicals. Among his many musical honors are being selected to perform on clarinet with the All-State Symphonic Band and the All-Eastern Concert Band. He also co-wrote a song, “Touch,” that received an Honorable Mention in the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Student Songwriters Competition.

Lewis-Harris, who will be attending the Steinhardt School of Arts & Science at New York University (NYU) in the fall, plans to major in Screen Scoring. “I want to be a professional composer,” he explained.

Musically, Lewis-Harris has been busy during the past year. “I did a film score for a short film called Hurly Burly, music for a Covid-19 PSA [public service announcement] that was selected as one of the top three in NYU’s Art for Health Campaign contest, and music for a virtual production of Macbeth,” he said. He also composed a piece called “Turning Point” that explores some of the feelings that he and his friends have had during the pandemic. On two of these projects, the film and the PSA, he collaborated with filmmaker Benny Rendell, a friend who will also be attending NYU.

Lewis-Harris, who is full of praise for Onteora teachers, mentions math teacher Jessica Morra and chemistry teacher Bryan Keenan as being among his favorites. “I loved my time here at Onteora,” he said. “I am very thankful I had the opportunity to be educated in such a wonderful environment, with such amazing teachers and peers,” he said.

Principal’s award winner Emily Peck

Emily, the daughter of Kelly and Tim Peck of Boiceville, was selected by OHS Principal Lance Edelman for this year’s Principal’s Award. The annual award is given as part of a scholastic achievement awards program sponsored by the Ulster County Superintendents’ Council.

Peck, who is fourth in her class, has an affinity for history and related subjects. “I really love history and all the electives that have to do with history and social sciences,” she said. Among her favorite teachers is Alicia Curlew, who taught her AP human geography and AP United States government and politics classes, and who also served as her advisor for Harvard Model Congress.

Peck also expressed her appreciation for Paul Colevas, who taught her favorite electives (sociology, mythology, cultural anthropology and philosophy) while overseeing the school’s Philosophy Club. “It’s really fun,” she said of her participation in the club. “We debate, and talk about, a different topic every week. We may talk about our lives, for example, or the merits of a public college, or whether utilitarianism is a worthy moral philosophy.”

Peck’s other extracurricular activities include serving as class president since ninth grade and as co-editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Talon. She was also a member of the varsity tennis team.

Peck appreciates the education she received at Onteora. “I’m really glad that I went to Onteora High School,” she said. “The students here are really listened to. My experiences in student government have taught me that whenever students have a problem that needs to be addressed, there are a lot of other caring students and staff who will work hard to solve that problem.”

Peck, who is still waiting for her college acceptance letters, plans to major in International Studies or international relations and to minor in Spanish or economics. “My goal is to work in diplomacy or for a non-profit or non-governmental organization, perhaps doing something related to immigration or human rights issues,” she said.