YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Yorktown High School is filled with hundreds of academically and athletically gifted students, but there’s no denying that Ellen O’Callaghan is the cream of the crop.
Whether in the classroom or on the athletic field, the valedictorian and sports star always seems to stand out.
“It is a huge honor and to have worked so hard and to kind of have that recognition at the end is always great, especially because we have such an intelligent class,” Ellen said. “To be named the top of all these intelligent people is amazing.”
During her high school career, Ellen was captain of both the varsity soccer and lacrosse teams, vice president of the Class of 2018, sports editor of the school newspaper, a member of the National Honor Society, a member of Varsity Athletes Against Substance Abuse, a tutor, and coach in lacrosse and basketball. She was a member of the varsity basketball team in freshman and sophomore years and a member of the winter track team in junior and senior years.
In May, Ellen was named an Athlete of the Week by Con Edison. She has also garnered Academic All-American, all-league and all-section honors. Ellen said, however, that none of her accolades would be possible without the support of her fellow Huskers.
“Everyone’s really supportive of each other,” Ellen said. “I feel like high school is regarded around the world as a very competitive time because you want to get into college. But, I feel like everyone here kind of never thought about winning over the other person. Really, we’re in support of each other. It’s a great feeling.”
Ellen will continue her lacrosse career in the fall at the University of Pennsylvania. There, she plans on studying in the Ivy League school’s Biological Basis of Behavior Program, in which students explore “biological, psychological, computational and clinical approaches to understand the nervous system as the biological basis of behavior, as well as perception, memory, motivation, and emotion.”
Eventually, Ellen would like to attend medical school to become a pediatric neurologist.
Her love of science was fostered at Yorktown High School, especially under the tutelage of AP biology teacher Andrea Servidio. She called Servidio the “hardest-working teacher” she’s had.
“Just being in there, I felt like it was the first taste of freedom and learning,” Ellen said. “She kind of left us on our own to figure out the labs and present it. I feel like the best learning is kind of when you’re thrown out by yourself and you have to figure out by yourself.”
Ellen said she was aiming to be at the top of the class academically, but it still took her by surprise when she was called down to the administrative office in October.
“It was an early lab period, and I got called down and I thought it was initially because I hadn’t paid for my parking spot yet,” Ellen said.
Instead, the entire administration was there to greet her and tell her that she was the valedictorian of the Class of 2018.
“When they told me, it was a complete shock,” Ellen said. “In my head, I wanted to be top decile, but other than that, I didn’t know where I was.”
Being named valedictorian also comes with the responsibility of addressing the Class of 2018 at the commencement ceremony. In her speech, Ellen said she wanted to remind her classmates to continue to follow their passions.
“We have a lot of people that are stellar in different areas of life, whether it be theater or music or sports,” she said. “I feel like it’s very wide-range, but everyone, you can tell they love what they do. That’s just something I want to make sure they know.”