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Carle Place valedictorian and salutatorian talk influential people

When Carle Place senior Vincent Basso looks back at his academic career, there are several moments that stand out: playing with the Queens Philharmonic in eighth grade, the incredible teachers he’s had and his involvement with the Carle Place Chamber Orchestra. But there’s one bright spot that shines brighter than all the rest.

Vincent Basso

“Achieving the role of valedictorian is the biggest highlight,” said Basso. “Ever since kindergarten, that was my goal. I always wanted to be valedictorian and I worked really hard to get to this point.”

With a GPA of 101.99 (unweighted), Basso will take the stage at Carle Place High School’s graduation on Friday, June 23, as the first in his class. His road to success wasn’t a solitary one— Basso said several people inspired him along the way.

“It started with my own mom. She encouraged me to do my best and put in 100 percent of effort. In sixth grade, I had a teacher who thought I would be valedictorian and that was very influential. At that point, I really set my mind to do it because other people believed in me,” Basso said.

But as the workload started piling up in junior and senior years, Basso said he began to lose faith in himself. That was, until a teacher reignited his drive.

“I was losing a little faith in myself, but Ms. [Joan] Caliendo said ‘I believe in you, and you can do this and push through.’ That was a pivotal moment,” said Basso.

Another influential figure in Basso’s life is his aunt, who sparked his interest in biology, his intended major as he heads to Stony Brook University in the fall to pursue a pre-med track and career as an anesthesiologist. He said his aunt Theresa, who works in the operating room, has been a second-mother figure to him.

“Hearing the crazy things that happen in the operating room has really given me a passion for biology and medicine,” Basso said. “Hearing those stories gave me my initial passion, when I further explored it I realized my full passion for it. I was fascinated by the human body and inner mechanisms.”

Carle Place High School salutatorian Ariel Salerno also credits influential family and teachers in her life for helping her stay motivated and achieve her goals.

“My mom gets me through everything. I know everything she does is for me, that’s really nice to have,” Salerno said. “I’ve been privileged that someone loves me no matter what I do and helps me learn from mistakes. She pushes me a lot too.”

Salerno takes the class’ second highest spot, with a GPA of 101.92 (weighted). She said while she thought receiving the title of salutatorian was “really special,” it wasn’t her end goal.

Ariel Salerno

“It’s not the necessarily the reason I worked so hard,” Salerno said. “I work hard because I love learning and because I want to succeed in life. The title feels nice, but I know a lot of other people would be deserving of the same title.”

Post high school, Salerno plans to attend Connecticut College, which is exciting not only because of the academics and proximity to home, but because it’s right next door to her favorite place-Mystic, CT-and the alma mater of one of her icons, Joan Rivers. She plans to double major in economics and theater, a fitting choice for someone who made her stage debut in fourth grade, as a red lollipop munchkin in the high school production of The Wizard of Oz.

“Theater to me is universal. I think there’s a lot of differences in the world and people tend to harp on those, but theater, especially music, is a universal language,” said Salerno, whose dream is to one day open a theater company. “You feel the emotion no matter where you’re from or what your background is. It’s really powerful that you can make someone feel an emotion based on what you write.”

Over the years, she’s been in about 20 plays, with her favorite role being that of Fantine in Les Misérables. It was a dream role she got to play twice, both at the BroadHollow Theatre Company and on the Carle Place High School stage. She says the friends she made through doing shows and during her grade school career will be what she misses most about high school.

“I’ll miss seeing them every single day in the hallways and being constantly engaged in whatever they’re doing and catching up with them,” Salerno said. “Especially the theater people. Once you do a show, you get really close and become like a family.”

In addition to her involvement in theater, she’s played an active role as a class officer, in Key Club, the school’s a cappella group, ensemble singers, women’s singers and playing violin in the chamber orchestra. And while she’s enjoyed an active grade school life, it hasn’t always been easy. When she was 13 years old, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, requiring daily trips to the nurses office for insulin shots.

“It was hard to adjust to at first. I was making the transition to high school, so that was just another thing added to that,” Salerno said. “Now, reflecting back, I think I’ve come a long way and I know a lot more about my body and myself. There are bad days, but overall, it’s made me a better person.”

Her advice to younger high school students is to take an active role in achieving their goals.

“Your high school experience is what you make of it. As much as you push yourself, that’s the reward you’ll get,” Salerno said. “If you sit around, waiting for others to make things happen and make excuses, you won’t get anywhere.”

Basso echoed those sentiments, encouraging students to set goals for themselves and commit themselves to it.

“Set a goal for yourself and stick to it,” Basso said. “It will get hard at sometimes, but think back to it and what you want to achieve. That will help you be successful.”

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