Don’t become complacent
ISLIP—Matthew Southard has been named salutatorian for Islip High School’s graduating class. Southard is a lifelong Islip resident. “I can’t have imagined living anywhere else,” he said.
Southard said being named salutatorian felt like the “culmination” of all his hard work. “It was also inspiring,” he said. “I feel like I’m headed to college ready to create change and prove to myself that I can keep pushing myself.”
Throughout his time in high school, Southard was class vice president and secretary for the National Honor Society. He also joined Science Olympiad in seventh grade. “I quickly became immersed,” he recalled. “I’ve fallen in love with science, made countless friends and have had the most fun memories exploring Boston before competitions.”
Southard is also an avid tennis player. “I grew up with a racket in my hand, playing tournaments and have recently passed the torch by teaching to a younger generation at World Gym in Bay Shore,” he said.
In his spare time, Southard said he is always on the lookout for new coffee shops on Long Island.
When asked what he will miss most about high school, Southard said his friends. “Without a doubt,” he said, adding that they helped each other push through “strenuous” AP physics tests, explored each other’s tastes in music and became “friends for life.”
Islip’s salutatorian said he won’t miss the “rigidness” of high school. “I have loved many of my classes, but some subjects – namely math – don’t particularly interest me,” he said. “I hope in college I have the freedom to create a path that fits well for me, with my heart in science and politics alike.”
In the fall, Southard will attend Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., where he will major in science and politics. “I’ve always adored science,” he said, noting that some of his earliest memories are doing science experiments with his mom. The at-home volcanoes were the most memorable, he said.
“But the political culture that recently entered my life – marches, letters to the senator – has really altered my interests,” he added.
Southard isn’t exactly sure what he would like to do after college. “I would somehow like to combine my love of politics and science, but I’m not quite sure where that will lead me,” he said. “We’ll see.”
Southard lists the pop singer Troye Sivan and professional tennis player Petra Kvitová as two of his biggest role models, along with the March for Our Lives students.
When asked what advice he would give to future graduates, Southard said, “Don’t become complacent.”
“We have the opportunity to weaponize our time in life to alter the future of our world for the better, so we must act with passion, empathy and strength,” he added.
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