Editor’s note: The Palm Beach Post is running profiles of the Class of 2021 valedictorians from district-run traditional high schools. Read them all here.
Samay Saxena, valedictorian of the William T. Dwyer High School 2020-2021 senior class, always had attaining the achievement in mind.
“Valedictorian was definitely the goal going into high school because I always wanted to strive for the best and strive for the top,” said Samay, 18, a Jupiter resident. “I have held the valedictorian rank since sophomore year.”
That said, Samay, who had played on basketball teams since age 10, wanted to maintain a balance and continue to spend time with friends and to play sports. He is on the varsity track team and runs the 100-meter, 200-meter and the 4 X 100-meter relay.
“I manage my time well. I have a lot going on. My big thing is not only school, but I like to play sports. My study habits revolve around me balancing out my schedule,” said Samay, who is in the International Baccalaureate program at Dwyer.
Graduating with a 4.0 GPA and a 5.75 HPA, Samay already has enough college credits for an Associate of Arts degree.
Born in Belleville, N.J., Samay moved to Jupiter with his parents — Vinay and Rachna Saxena — and older sister, Sakshi, when he was 9 months old. He attended Lighthouse Elementary, Beacon Cove Elementary and Independence Middle schools.
His parents moved from India to New Jersey in the 1990s so his father, a pediatric oncologist hematologist now based in West Palm Beach, could complete his pediatric residency after receiving his medical degree in India.
“I always say I am not the most intelligent kid, but I am definitely one of the most hardworking. It all comes from watching my father and seeing his journey to America. It was motivating to me,” Samay said. “I want to mirror that.
“He has always schooled me. His piece of advice is “Work hard for 10 years, then relax the next 50. Work hard now, you can reap the benefits later on.” I have my own philosophy that keeps me grounded and keeps me pushing for the best. Always aim for one step above what you want to achieve,” Samay said.
After scoring the highest grade at Dwyer on a college exam for an AICE (Advanced International Certificate of Education) class in international history, Samay started a free after-school tutoring service for that subject at Dwyer.
“It is a pure mentoring service. Kids who did well on the exam the year before get community service hours and tutor classmates. The greatest part is we did help increase scores on the exam, which is a testament to our hard work,” Samay said.
With a goal of finding a seven- or eight-year program that would guarantee him admission to medical school, he applied to 21 colleges. He has narrowed his choice to either Nova Southeastern University in Davie, which has a medical school or Bonaventure University in New York. Bonaventure has a program that guarantees graduates admittance to George Washington University School of Medicine.
“These programs are really competitive. Four hundred applied to the Bonaventure program and they take five students,” Samay said. “I am automatically admitted to undergraduate and also to medical school, which is very exciting.”
His internship at Scripps Florida Research Institute in Jupiter as a sophomore may have helped him stand out from the crowded applicant field. Samay was one of 12 students selected for the internship that summer.
“My internship at Scripps Research pertained to understanding how memory works and how it fails in memory loss disorders such as dementia or Alzheimer’s,” Samay said. “We studied how a specific neuron reacts to stimuli, positive and negative. Through this research we were able to figure out how neurons react in relation to memories and how it relates to Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
His advice for students who want to do their best in high school?
Set a goal early on in high school. A lot of kids complain they wasted their freshman year. Focus on a goal whether it be valedictorian or the honor roll. Make sure you revolve your classes and activities around your passions and interests.
Who is your hero?
My dad is my hero. His hard work and dedication combined with his positive attitude about life inspire me to strive for greatness every day.
What is your favorite movie?
“The Dark Knight.”
What are your hobbies?
Playing basketball, running, and cooking.
What do you do to get away or take a break?
I like to watch a variety of YouTube videos that include documentaries, business insider, cooking, and comedy. I also love playing sports with my friends such as basketball, football, and “spikeball”. Creating new recipes and experimenting with cooking also helps me take a break from the many stresses of life.
If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
I would have dinner with Birbal. He was the advisor to the Indian Emperor Akbar in the 1500s and was known for his wit and intelligence. I have grown up reading stories of his cleverness and would love to be able to pick at his brain over dinner.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Work hard these 10 years and relax the next 50.
What is your favorite book?
“Frankenstein” is my favorite piece of literature but as a kid I loved the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series.
What is your favorite memory?
When I found out about my acceptance into the Scripps Research Kenan Fellows Summer Internship Program. It was the first time being selected into a very rigorous program that required an application and essays, and a resume. As a sophomore in high school, it reminded me that nothing was impossible to achieve and that as long as I put my max effort towards a goal then I can be happy with the result.
How do you feel about possibly having a virtual graduation ceremony instead of an in-person event?
While I would not be in favor of a virtual graduation ceremony I understand the predicament of our situation regarding COVID-19. I would much rather be in-person with my fellow peers who I have shared these amazing four years with.
How do you feel about spending your last year of high school mostly isolated from friends because of coronavirus?
Despite the physical isolation coronavirus inflicted upon my lifestyle, I believe it brought me closer to a lot of my friends. Because everyone was in the same situation with regard to social isolation, we utilized FaceTime, texting, and social media more than ever to keep in touch. So, while I may have been isolated physically from my friends, digitally we were closer than before.