A duo destined to be doctors were the two students who reached the level of valedictorian and salutatorian this year for Cherokee High School’s Class of 2019.
This year’s valedictorian, Aayushi Parikh, and this year’s salutatorian, Alexis Armstrong, each have their eyes set on medical school in the future, but the two had slightly different visions as they reached the top of their class.
While each took the tough classes and put in the hours upon hours of studying, Parikh said it had always been her dream to reach the rank of valedictorian.
“This was my goal since kindergarten,” Parikh said. “I think I saw a Cherokee graduation, and I thought ‘that’s what I want to be.’”
Yet for Armstrong, she said she had no idea she was heading anywhere close to the No. 1 or No. 2 spot.
“I just worked hard and took the classes that were going to push me, and it just worked out this way,” Armstrong said.
Still, each highly values the education that Cherokee had bestowed on each of them.
With that in mind, Parikh spoke to the importance she places on being curious.
“Education helps you better the world,” Parikh said. “The more you learn, the more you learn about things that are wrong with the world and how you can change them.”
In Armstrong’s case, she said education has allowed her to find out who she is as a person.
“It gives you the tools to be successful for your future,” Armstrong said.
Looking toward that future, Parikh is heading to Rutgers New Brunswick to major in neuroscience and cell biology, with plans to eventually attend medical school to become a surgeon.
“I like how the medical field is always different every day and you never know what you’re walking into,” Parikh said. “I like the stress.”
For Armstrong, she’s headed to Boston College to major in biology, and she also has plans to eventually attend medical school and become a doctor.
“I just want to help people, and it changes every day,” Armstrong said. “I like that you’re never doing the same thing over and over again.”
As for their favorite memories now that their time at Cherokee is complete, Armstrong recalled the year her basketball team won NJSIAA South Jersey, Group IV Girls Basketball Tournament, while Parikh pointed to jazz ensemble and the group placing second her freshman and senior years at the New Jersey Association for Jazz Education festivals.
Those hobbies served the pair well, as they gave them an outlet when they weren’t studying and taking some of the most difficult classes Cherokee had to offer.
Parikh has played the piano since she was 6, and she picked up guitar some while in high school, in addition to swimming for the school for her first three years.
“I try my best not to procrastinate, and I try to get things done right when they’re assigned,” Parikh said. “I can relax closer to the due date or get help if I have specific questions.”
Outside of the classroom, Armstrong said she’s been “nonstop sports” since she was younger, focusing on softball and basketball at Cherokee.
“I plan a lot. I plan out everything,” Armstrong said. “If I had sports one day, I might have to bring a textbook to read in the car ride. I plan out and make sure I got things done as early as possible.”