Sakshi Chopra is this year’s valedictorian and Matt Kane is this year’s salutatorian.
Lenape High School’s Class of 2018 valedictorian and salutatorian each cite academics as playing a big role in their lives, albeit in slightly different ways.
For Sakshi Chopra, this year’s valedictorian, she’s loved to learn as far back as she can remember, and so academics have allowed her to learn new things and expand her world view.
For Matt Kane, this year’s salutatorian, he describes his desire to perform well in academics as a way to test himself and his own capability to work hard and accomplish goals.
Yet despite approaching learning in different ways, Chopra and Kane each said they didn’t begin their high school careers with the set goal of becoming valedictorian or salutatorian.
The two recently sat down with The Sun to speak about their time at Lenape and where they see themselves in the future.
For Chopra’s future, she plans to attend Johns Hopkins University to hopefully become a doctor.
“That’s a profession that’s built around the idea of using your knowledge to help others, and I just think it’s really noble work because I can’t think of any better use for the knowledge that I’ve had the privilege to obtain because of my economic circumstance than to help people that might be less fortunate,” Chopra said.
Chopra, whose brother Saransh Chopra also happened to achieve the top spot as Lenape’s valedictorian last year for the Class of 2017, also spoke about the role her family life played in her success at Lenape.
Chopra said her parents always encouraged her to stay focused on the idea of learning rather than achieving a specific grade, while her brother was always there to help as well.
“We joke about it sometimes that there’s something in the water, but I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish it without him, and I think in some ways he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish it without me,” Chopra said. “We were always kind of a team in high school where we worked with each and learned from each other.”
Chopra, who plays on the school’s varsity tennis team, serves as president of DECA, and also has spots on the math team and in science league, also points to Lenape’s teachers for helping shape the person she’s now become at the end of her high school career.
“I honestly am so grateful for the way teachers here have taught me, because I think that a lot of students don’t have the access to the quality of teachers that we have here,” Chopra said. “When they go to college, even though they might be naturally intelligent, they don’t know how to study or be successful in an environment where things aren’t laid out for them.”
Kane, while also reflecting on his time at Lenape, also pointed to the quality of Lenape’s teachers as a factor in his success.
“A lot of the teachers here are really great and are always willing to provide help when needed,” Kane said. “I’ve had a lot of good teachers. If it weren’t for them being so good, maybe I wouldn’t be as successful as I am now.”
As for his reaction to becoming this year’s salutatorian, Kane described it as an honor.
“It’s an honor, because I definitely know there are kids who are a lot smarter than I am and who are a lot more hard-working, but they might have just taken non-AP classes (affecting the weight of their GPA) or they might have just taken classes they were interested in that weren’t AP. It’s luck-based in a way, but it’s still an honor regardless.”
When he’s not in class, Kane said he mostly enjoys spending time with friends playing basketball or video games, and he also has a job doing website work for a local bowling alley.
Kane said he plans to attend Rowan University to study computer science and potentially become a software engineer, which is a reflection of his longtime interest in technology.
“Even when I was 4 or 5, my mom has pictures of me from then playing on the computer, and I even remember falling asleep on it one time,” Kane said.
When asked for a word of advice to parents looking to have their children perform well in school, Kane said parents can help their kids by letting them focus on learning and their passions.
“I think that parents should be understanding of what their kids are interested in and what courses they might be interested in and finding where that passion may lie,” Kane said.
“That’s been something that’s been helpful for me. Having a passion for certain classes makes it more enjoyable to learn and easier at the same time.”