UNION, NJ – Union High School Class of 2020 participated in their virtual graduation last week and will hold an in-person celebration on July 8.  Accomplished, dedicated and assiduous senior Arthanious Shafik has served as this year's Valedictorian.

Shafik said he had the opportunity to participate in many activities at Union High School, including serving as the President of the National Honors Society, President of the German National Honors Society, Captain and founder of the Academy of Speech, Debate and Publishing, High-School Mentor of the Burnet and Kawameeh Middle School Divisions of Academy, Historian of History Club and Model United Nations.  He was Vice President of the Junior Class Student Council, the main actor of three film club student award-winning films, an AP Biology Lab Assistant, Key Club member, and Freshman Representative of the Principal's Committee.

“These invaluable experiences have taught me crucial social and time management skills,” said Shafik.  “One of the greatest benefits of Union High School, aside from the strength of its student and faculty diversity, is the many local scholarships it offers students.”

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Shafik said because of the way the school year ended, without a senior trip, prom, or typical graduation, it will be difficult to say goodbye to high school. “What our class does share in these final months are a unified connection and understanding from which we drive strength, because while we traverse these uncertainties, we all do so together.”

Shafik attended Franklin Elementary School where he still keeps in touch with his fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Kraly who “inspired me to achieve academic excellence by his passionate teaching style and care for all his students.”  He attended Jefferson School and said it was at Burnet Middle School that he discovered his passion for community service and extra-curricular interests.  "Being a tight-knit community, my most memorable experiences were as VP of Builders Club (youth version of Key Club), an Academy of Speech, Debate and Publishing student, a Poetry Slam participant, and VP of my 8th-grade class where I founded the now annual "Summer Sizzle" event at the end of the year where students would spend their last half days outside playing games to socialize and build strong community bonds rather than all indoors.”

About being selected valedictorian, Shafik said ever since his eighth-grade promotion where he received the highest class GPA at Burnet Middle School, he was inspired to achieve his goals. “Becoming the valedictorian means a lot to me because I never considered myself the "smartest student" and I have never sacrificed my extracurriculars for the sole sake of earning a higher GPA. For me, it shows that achievement is not the stereotype of the student to stays home all day with their textbook, but actively volunteering in one's community and taking on more responsibilities is what gave me the drive and ability to succeed in the classroom as well. So my message to any future ambitious student would be to never limit yourself and know that great service and leadership outside the classroom can also translate to more success in the classroom.”

Shafik said the achievement also means a lot to his family. “Being a first-generation American to Coptic parents who immigrated to the United States from Egypt, education has always been a core family value.”  He said his father graduated first of his class in his small village in Egypt and went on to become a practicing doctor, but gave it up when he came to the United States to ensure his family had financial stability. "His sacrifices gave me my opportunities, so I would like to thank my parents, Saad and Nadra Shafik for believing in me and empowering me.”

Shafik said he is excited to attend the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Albert Dorman Honors College, where he has received a full scholarship package that includes room and board “which will help me focus on my Biology major on a pre-medical track.”