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WESTPORT — Duke University and Yale University are about to add Staples High School’s top graduates to their incoming freshmen classes.

Both said they have learned a lot from their time at Staples.

“Do what you’re passionate about,” Wang said, who will be attending Duke.

Wang said she learned the importance of following her interests and not being weighed down by challenges. 

Schussheim, who is heading to Yale, is the youngest of three siblings in her family, with her older sister Emily being valedictorian in 2017, and older brother Benji being salutatorian in 2020. 

While at Staples, she said she learned it is important to find balance between academics and her social life, which she hopes to continue in college. 

Wang said one of her proudest achievements is outside of school, where she is the social media director for Dear Asian Youth, an international activist organization spanning 200 chapters across 18 countries, with more than 100,000 Instagram followers.

She said the organization helps empower Asian youth through intersectional activism. She had been following them for a few years. In 2021, they looked for a social media director, so she applied and got the job. 

Within school, Wang is the editor-in-chief of the school’s STEM journal and president of Model United Nations, which she said she enjoys as she gets to mentor other students and help improve their skills. 

Wang added that being part of the tennis team was an important experience for her, calling it her “sanctuary.”

She said she loved competing, but the community made the experience for her.

Wang is currently participating in her senior internship, continuing work begun earlier at the Yale University School of Public Health, where she is studying the intersection of the environment and public health. 

Her interest in that intersection helped create her National History Day project, where she researched Minamata disease, a public health and pollution crisis that caused thousands of deaths in Japan. This work landed a second place prize in the national competition. 

Schussheim participated in the Sikorsky STEM Challenge, which is a statewide competition, where she and other students are building a helicopter.

This year, Schussheim has also been participating in an independent study with a Yale graduate student, analyzing and searching for patterns in galaxy images from the James Webb Space Telescope.

She even presented her findings at the International Science Youth Forum in Singapore. 

Outside of school, Schussheim participated in a Summer Science Program, where she calculated the possibility of an asteroid hitting Earth. 

She said some of her favorite experiences throughout high school have been participating on the squash team and playing cello in multiple school orchestras. 

“It’s a nice way to break up the day between academics,” she said.

Wang listed AP English Language and Composition and AP Government: We the People as her two favorite classes, which she said helped revolutionize her writing and communication skills, and get a hands-on experience while learning, respectively. 

Schussheim said AP English Language and Composition was also one of her favorite classes, as well as AP Physics C. She said, as someone mainly focused in STEM, the English class challenged her and helped her become a more organized writer and thinker. As for physics, she said it was great to apply what they learned to real life problems

Wang said she currently plans on studying public policy and global health in college, which she said she became interested in because of the relationship between environmental health of marginalized groups and translating it into public policy.

Potentially continuing her passion for space, Schussheim said she may study physics or astrophysics. 

Staples High School graduation is from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on June 13 at the high school’s football stadium.

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