By Sean Fischer
Early one morning a tedious day in February, Mrs. French got on the loudspeaker and made a momentous announcement about three of Briarcliff’s most distinguished students. “The Briarcliff High School Class of 2017 valedictorian and salutatorians are Sophie Underwood, Jackie Contento, and Lauren Burnette,” her voice booming through the halls as these students made their way down to the office to receive their well-deserved congratulations. Sophie Underwood, Jackie Contento, and Lauren Burnette excelled in every aspect of high school over the past four years. Their accomplishments in the classroom, on the field, on stage, and in our greater community have left a mark on Briarcliff High School that will not be soon forgotten.
Sophie Underwood, valedictorian, is the epitome of academic achievement, and has worked tirelessly over the past four years to become the best student in her class. “I’m grateful and honored to be named valedictorian, but at the same time, I don’t believe that grades are the sole indicator of student achievement,” says Sophie. She took that belief
to heart, and has participated in Briars and Ivy, Academic Challenge, Tri-M Music Honor Society, NHS, and MHS, gaining distinction in all she undertook. Sophie has been a part of the theatre community throughout all of high school, and has graced our stages with her talent for acting and for the oboe. “I would like to thank my parents for always putting up with me, my sisters for constantly inspiring me to be my best self, and my friends for holding my hand and making me smile.” Like most high school students, she enjoys napping and watching Netflix, but she is unique in her ability to be successful in all she undertakes, in her incredible work ethic, and in her commitment to Briarcliff and our community.
The President of Briarcliff High School, President of the American Red Cross Club, varsity athlete, and Briarcliff’s 6th man: Jackie Contento not only rose to the top of her class academically, she achieved excellence throughout all four years of her time spent at BHS. “It is sorewarding to know that all my hard work has paid off these past few years…it is truly incredible to say that my positive and determined spirit has brought me here today,” says Jackie.
She believes that things work out for those who deserve it, and her strong work ethic and her dad’s helpful acronyms (BTB- be the best, and CANI- constant and never ending improvement) have led her to this. Being co-salutatorian is an accomplishment enough, but Jackie also plans to continue on at Duke University, where she hopes to become a pediatric doctor and a publishing researcher. Whether she is instilling spirit into our school, volunteering at Lifting up Westchester, or playing varsity soccer, basketball, or softball, Jackie can always be seen with a determined smile on her face as she continues to make Briarcliff a better and happier place.
“It is really exciting. I have worked super hard since freshman year, so it is nice that this hard work paid off.” Laureen Burnette, co-salutatorian, is the co-president of both the National Honor Society, and Chemisty Club. She is a member in the Math Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society
in addition to playing varsity softball. Whether on the field, in the classroom, or on the stage, Laureen is the definition of a dedicated student. She believes in doing what you are passionate about, a belief that she has displayed throughout her four years at BHS. “I would like to thank my siblings…for helping me become the person I am,” says Laureen. She plans on continuing on this path of success on the pre-med track, majoring in chemistry in college. Her spirit of inquiry and her never-ending well of grit have led her to this moment, and she has left a mark on all students and teachers at BHS, impressing us all with her musical talents and academic renown.
The Class of 2017 continues to astonish and amaze our school community. Their dedication to learning, to research, to athletics, to the performing arts, and to our village sets an example for all high school students. Sophie, Jackie, and Lauren exemplify this spirit. They are always in pursuit of excellence, and have shown our school what hard work, perseverance, and a constant thirst for knowledge can do. They display the best of Briarcliff, showing school pride and the desire to make our community a better place. The valedictorian and salutatorians have left an incredible legacy at BHS, congratulations to Sophie, Jackie, and Laureen.