A salute to the class of 2016

With many (if not most) of the best schools in LA right here in the Valley, the area is a hotbed for smart, super-talented youth. We are delighted to introduce you to some of those high achievers—the valedictorians of our local high schools. This year’s “Valleydictorians” are brought to you by our sponsor, Huntington Learning Center, which has tutoring and test prep locations in Encino and Woodland Hills. On behalf of Huntington Learning Center and Ventura Blvd magazine, congratulations to the Class of 2016!

Jason Sibrian | The Buckley School Harvard University

“The road in front of us is greatly divided, we will all go our own way, some down a road well-traveled and others forging a new path. However, you should not worry, as you have been equipped with the only weapon you will ever need. In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ And each one of us sitting here has the power to change the world. All we need to do is tap into that power, and the good you can do is beyond even your wildest imagination.”


Vista Farkhondeh | Camino Real High School University of California, Los Angeles

“Forget about those who doubted you and those who counted you out, because this is the time to prove them all wrong. Follow your dreams and conquer the world!” 


Amanda Peters | Oaks Christian School University of Chicago

“Graduation is an end to an important period in our lives, and not all of us view this milestone the same way. Many of us are eager to discard our past, to leave behind what we’ve experienced here and move on to bigger and better things.”


Alexander Farid | Campbell Hall Episcopal University of Pennsylvania

“The good memories from freshman year were, uh, numbered. I remember our first spirit chapel. We were dressed in the leftover color nobody wanted: bright, seen-from-across-the-street yellow. Let’s disregard the rest of that year. 12th grade. Senior year. Since elementary school, the senior patio was always sacred space; sneaking past that old darkroom into the patio was forbidden. So the first day of senior year is one that I’m sure most of us couldn’t forget. With our super-stylish “Seniors 2016” polos, we took our spot on that equally stylish patio, finally rulers of the school. Big things happened this year. College of course, but also the events that naturally come with our last year of high school. Our final color wars: this time we stormed the court and we wore blue while the yellows watched from the top.”


Nicole Pinkus | deToledo High School University of Washington

“We look back to that spring day when we were invited to the party. We had no idea how the next four years of our lives would look. But today, we share our immense gratitude with our friends, family and the deToledo community. You are the people who have made the icing on the cake possible.” 


Emily Velandia | Providence High School Johns Hopkins University

“I know I don’t have to worry about wishing you luck as we head off on our next great adventure— none of you need it. We are a determined, competitive and passionate group of people—our success has never been dependent on luck. But the one thing I do wish for you is that each day forward, whether we spend it together or apart, is a day that makes it easy for you to choose to ‘be good.’ Congratulations! We did it!”


Jordan Miller | iLead North Hollywood New York University

“As iLead Noho’s first graduating class, we didn’t just prove that we took hold of our futures when we chose our college path, we proved that we were in control of our futures when we demonstrated that it only takes a little bit of faith and hope—and a lot of hard work— to turn something like an unknown high school into something truly amazing.”


Joss Saltzman | Harvard-Westlake School Stanford University


Brooke Levenstein | Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies University of California, Berkeley

“To our parents, thank you for waking us up at the crack of dawn to make sure we beat the homeroom tardy bell … BARELY; thank you for the thousands of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (without crust!) that you packed for us over the years to make sure we had ample energy throughout the day; and thank you for completing—I mean helping with—our many art projects over the years so that they actually looked presentable. But most of all, thank you for your unwavering love, support and dedication. This momentous day would not be possible without you.” 


Julia Reilly | Champs Charter High School for the Arts University of California, Berkeley

“Though I don’t know if everything happens for a reason, I believe that few hardships are endured in vain. Obstacles are not obstacles, but challenges that you will be eventually rewarded for overcoming. .”


Dylan Rudolph | Sierra Canyon School Duke University

“Moving forward, I encourage you all to surround yourselves with people who will support you through thick and thin, and stay by your sides. Today, take time to remember not only all the hard work you put in to get to this point, but also everyone who helped you get here.”


Aviva Falls | Milken School Stanford University


Blake Feldmar | Taft High School University of California, Berkeley

“The world’s lack of order is terrifying to the core, and I think that I speak for more than just me when I say that venturing into the unknown is one of the most daunting prospects imaginable. However, life is not fiction, and that’s a good thing. Maybe the excitement is seeing where the journey takes you, and knowing that it’s not all planned out and doesn’t have to (and won’t) be perfect.”


Danielle Gardner | Highland Hall Waldorf School Lafayette College

“We are not the names of prestigious college acceptances, nor are we the three-pointers on the court. We are not the likes on our latest post, not are we the line drives in the dust. We are the honesty and humbleness that came before those moments and the egotism and pride that followed. Because what we did in a moment defines us but is not the entirety of us. And to grasp the entirety of ourselves, we must let the waves of life crash.”


Elijah Spiegal | deToledo High School Stanford University

“I am not a good source of life advice. If you want some real pearls of wisdom to guide you through your life, read If, by Rudyard Kipling. I keep a copy of this poem in my wallet at all times; it’s one of my most treasured possessions. It has never failed to inspire me, humble me and teach me.


Yi-Ling Loo | North Hollywood High School University of California, Los Angeles


Kassandra Flores | Ulysses S. Grant High School University of California, Los Angeles

“Change, we’ll find, is inevitable. Often unwanted, but unavoidable. I told myself I wouldn’t incorporate the generic inspirational quote into my speech, but I think there is one familiar adage that remains applicable and that we should hear one last time. What we are to be, we are now becoming. Though we will not be hearing the enthusiastically-spoken saying every single morning anymore as we half consciously take our seats in class and begin the day, it will still hold significance in describing our developing lives. Over the past four years, our friends, family, and teachers have prompted and aided our transformations into not only maturing adults, but also citizens of the world.” 


Peter Christiansen | Crespi Carmelite High School Washington University


Lia Cohen | Highland Hall Waldorf School University of California, Los Angeles

“We are told to fear the world. We see it written in the newspapers, proclaimed by the media and reinforced by our politicians, but the truth is that there really is no outside world. The world as we know it is just a collection of individuals. Let’s tap into our inner goodness and share it as a collective force. It’s all about consciousness. As young leaders, we are tasked with becoming global citizens together on this planet, so let’s mobilize that force and share it wherever we go. It’s time to lead.”


Noelle Johnson | Chaminade College Preparatory University of Notre Dame

“I know that in 50 years, it will be abundantly clear why we were born in America, attended Chaminade, and had such supportive parents, friends, teachers, and coaches. So don’t feel guilty. Feel grateful. Show gratitude. Thank everyone, including those friends and family that encouraged and supported you up to this moment. You’ve been given a treasure for a very purposeful reason. Feel inspired, empowered and confident as you start college and your new life this fall; as you take the first step toward making your essential contribution to the world.” 


Rachel Alayneck | High Tech LA Claremont McKenna College

“My peers speak about their ambitions with an appetite that scrapes my stomach empty. Although dining hall food may not satisfy us, the future success stories in this class await a lifetime of fullness.”