By CASEY CROUCHER
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- They didn't necessarily plan on becoming the top two students of their graduating class at Amsterdam High School, but determination and tenacity paid off for valedictorian Maxine Petrosino and salutatorian Rebekah Izzo.
"I always knew that I wanted to do my best, and try my hardest, but in about 10th or 11th grade, I really got my priorities straight," Izzo said. "I had always been at the top of my class coming up through middle school, but the middle of high school is when I really got determined."
Petrosino said she never specifically set out to be the valedictorian of her class.
"I certainly came into high school wanting to be one of the top students in the class, and I knew how hard it would be, but I just worked hard through the four years," Petrosino said. "I was never super anxious about it, but I still wanted it."
The top two said they owe their success to hard work.
"I worked hard, never lost my integrity or dignity along the way, and was definitely influenced by my parents, and more so by my faith, and I think that's what got me this far," Izzo said.
Petrosino said her ability to balance her work helped her do well in high school.
"I think just making sure to put a certain amount of work into each class is important for success in school," Petrosino said. "It's easy to prefer one class over others, so it's a lot harder to really do well in math, science and all of the different subjects. I always tried to balance things out."
Throughout high school, Petrosino was a member of the National Honor Society; she was captain of the mock trial team; captain of Masterminds; a finalist in the state Poetry Out Loud contest; and, a member of the Spanish club and varsity tennis team.
She has received the Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony Award for dedication to social justice; the President's Volunteer Service Award for completing 100 hours of service in one year; received Excellence in Economic Understanding honors from Yale University; and, recognition as a YMCA Outstanding Senior, as well as for the HOBY Leadership Conference.
She plans to attend the University of California-Berkeley for pre-law, and possibly neuroscience.
"I originally thought I wanted to go into medicine, but, my sophomore year, I joined the mock trial team, and got to be exposed to court cases and the law, and I really fell in love with it -- so, ever since then, I've wanted to be an attorney," she said. "I want to also study neuroscience, as well; I think it's interesting to combine people's cognitive abilities with the law, and how we can intersect those to make laws that are really beneficial to people."
Izzo was also a member of the National Honor Society; she was the senior class president; a leader in an after-school bible study program; a Sunday school teacher; and, a Wish List organizer. She is also employed at Cakes by Joann.
She has received the YMCA Outstanding Senior Student Award; Student of the Quarter in AP Classes; she was on the Principal's List; and, is a New York State Scholar Student recipient.
She plans on attending the Belanger School of Nursing to pursue a degree in nursing.
"I've have always had a love for children, so I want to specialize in maternity or pediatrics nursing," she said. "I feel nursing gives me the opportunity to give back to people and help them, so I think it's a good thing for me."
The outgoing seniors said if they could give their underclassmen any advice, it would be to work hard.
"I would tell them to always try their best; if you put out your best, then the best will come to you," Izzo said. "I know a lot of times it might feel like you're not getting anywhere, but just keep going because it will all work out."
"I would say work hard, but still do everything you can to enjoy yourself, and take all of the opportunities that are available, because some of the best things I enjoyed in high school were things I joined on a whim," Petrosino added.
The valedictorian said she was influenced by her family, friends and mentors at AHS to do her best. She said she has too many great memories of high school, and "it's hard to choose just one moment."
Izzo said being with her friends and continuing her faith in God has influenced her, and she's going to miss high school.
"There were a lot of good memories and a lot of challenging times," she said. "Just being with friends, and going through things, and knowing that you have other people who are experiencing the same kind of challenges you're experiencing is nice. It's nice to know you have somebody there."
Although Petrosino and Izzo said they'll miss the halls of Amsterdam High School, they're also ready for the next chapter.
"I'm excited to finally get started on what I actually want to do with my life, and I'm excited to move forward," Izzo said.
"I certainly crave the adventure of going out to California and figuring things out," Petrosino said.