In an age of instant gratification where a button simply needs to be pressed and the world is at your fingertips, Michael Abatemarco has proven that good old fashioned perseverance and service to others does pay off.
Abatemarco is the Garden City High School Class of 2010's valedictorian. Earning a 101.57 GPA and a perfect SAT score are weighty accomplishments but it's Abatemarco's commitment that's remarkable.
His academic accomplishments include being named one of approximately 560 semifinalists in the 2010 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program from more than 3,000 candidates nationwide. Semifinalists are selected based on academic achievements, leadership, personal character and community involvement. In recognition of this honor, Nassau County Clerk Maureen O'Connell presented Abatemarco with a county citation.
He is also a National Merit finalist, AP Scholar with Distinction, Rensselaer medalist, Siemens Science Contest semifinalist and recipient of the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship.
He is an avid reader and a kindle owner. When asked if he could name one teacher that moved him, English teacher Carlo Rebolini came to mind. "Mr. Rebolini allowed us to think on a deeper level and reflect on literature," he said.
Abatemarco's community service is commendable. He has been involved in two national mission trips to Alabama and the Appalachian regions of eastern Kentucky. These trips provided a new paradigm of thinking for Abatemarco.
He explains, "I came back different and with a new perspective."
Abatemarco has also served on his school's executive board of Peer AIDS Educators and served as captain of a Swim Across America team, which raised funds for cancer.
His extracurricular activities include being drum major of his school's marching band, a third degree black belt in karate, Eagle Scout ranking, principal baritone saxophonist in the wind and jazz ensembles and a varsity-level swimmer and diver.
Abatemarco credits his parents for his success. His father's work ethic has inspired him and his mother keeps everything in "order."
Abatemarco's father hailed Garden City High School as a place where every student could grow. Mr. Abatemarco also shared his admiration for his son's perseverance.
"The activities Michael has pursued required a lengthy commitment. He worked for 12 years to earn his black belt; he's been a Boy Scout since first grade. His participation in the band and swimming are skills that he has honed for years," he said.
Abatemarco's guidance counselor, Patrick Doyle, added, "Michael is a very motivated and bright student. He has the uncanny ability to multi-task at a very high level."
Doyle explained that New York State requires 22 credits for graduation and while the typical Garden City graduate earns 30, Abatemarco has earned close to 50 credits.
"He is also well liked by his peers," Doyle continued. "I've seen him help students and there is no arrogance. He is a gentleman."
Abatemarco will attend Harvard University. His sister Natalie, a fifth grader, is already sporting the Ivy League's T-shirt. When asked what it was like to gain entry into Harvard, Abatemarco said, "I was ecstatic. Harvards' programs fit my interests the best." He plans to study economics and is thinking about going to law school.
Prior to attending Harvard in the fall, Abatemarco will be working this summer with a non-profit organization as part of the Bank of America Student Leaders Program.
His message to the graduating class and the community will be an expression of gratitude: "I am thankful that I had excellent teachers," he said.
Dr. Quigley, an Advanced Placement (AP) social studies teacher, said Abatemarco is the type of student that is not always happy with the standard answer. "He enjoyed debating and keeping me on my toes. He earned the title of valedictorian," he said.
Mr. McAuley, another one of Abatemarco's social studies teachers, added, "He is one of the most outstanding students I've encountered in 15 years of teaching. He is not just intelligent, but also passionate about learning and interested in a wide variety of topics."
However, it is Abatemarco's gratitude and commitment to serve others that takes him beyond his perfect SAT score and stellar academic record and proves that he is a true visionary and leader.
Dr. Stratis, another AP social studies teacher, summed up Abatemarcos' talents this way: "He can truly be called a Renaissance man. His interests in the sciences and humanities are topped off by his ability to conduct the band. In this age of sensationalism and consumerism, his type of intellect is what this country needs. He is an enlightened thinker and a ray of hope for the future."