Meet the Top Graduates of the Class of 2020

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Although the COVID-19 crisis resulted in the Class of 2020 not being able to culminate their high school career in the traditional sense, the valedictorians and salutatorians of the East Meadow School District have much to reflect positively on from their high school experience.

East Meadow High School valedictorian Ikshu Pandey is highly decorated with accomplishments both in and out of the classroom. She served as co-president of the Science Honor Society, the co-vice president of the Math and French honor societies and was a member of Mathletes, Math Research, the Horticulture Club, Key Club and the Pre-med Club. She also worked as a teacher’s aide at the Creative Arts Program for East Meadow (CAPE) from freshman through junior year.

After achieving a perfect score on the ACT exam, Ikshu was nominated for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. She also received the National Merit Scholarship Program Letter of Commendation for scoring in the top 3% of an international pool, of more than 1.5 million students, who took the Preliminary SAT. Along with her stellar academic performance, she was presented with the New York State Senator Kevin Thomas Youth Leadership Award for serving as a role model and demonstrating outstanding leadership and academic excellence within the community.

Ikshu has conducted scientific research since her sophomore year and consistently represented East Meadow High School in regional science fairs. As a junior, she was awarded High Honors within the Senior Division at the Long Island Science Congress for her research, “The Effect of Electromagnetic Radiation on the Tunneling Behaviors of Ants.”

In addition to these accomplishments, Ikshu was a member of her school’s tennis and bowling teams. Her volunteerism, which took up the majority of her free time, earned her the President’s Volunteer Service Gold Award for completing more than 250 volunteer hours in one year. In addition, Ikshu regularly volunteered at Nassau University Medical Center, which led to her aspirations of becoming a neurosurgeon.
When asked what her favorite high school memory is, Ikshu reflected on the moment she was officially named valedictorian of her class. “Ms. McHale, my French teacher, surprised me with a cake,” she said. “It is one of my fondest memories and represents how much the teachers at East Meadow High School care about their students.”

Ikshu wants to remind her classmates that even though schools are closed, the most important thing to do is to celebrate their successes during these unprecedented times. “I want to tell my graduating class that they should focus on their own growth, rather than the growth of others,” she said. “Everyone is so talented and has a different definition of success. If we stay true to ourselves, we can all make an impact in the world in our own unique way!”

Ikshu will be attending Johns Hopkins University in the fall, where she will follow a pre-med track and major in neuroscience with the goal of becoming a neurosurgeon.

East Meadow High School salutatorian Brendan Wilkowski boasts an impressive record of academic and extracurricular achievements, as well. During his high school career, he received a perfect score of 36 on the ACT, a near-perfect score of 1590 on the SAT, and was awarded the George Washington University Engineering Medal and a National Merit Scholarship Corporation Scholarship. He was named a NYSPHSAA Scholar-Athlete from his freshman through junior years and was on the honor roll every quarter throughout his high school career. Similarly, he was also awarded the NYPD Scholarship and the 2020 NYU Winthrop Hospital Sports Medicine Scholarship while also being a semifinalist in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.

Brendan belonged to several honor societies in high school, including the National Honor Society, for which he was a board member, and the Math, Science, Social Studies, English and Spanish honor societies. As a student-musician, he was an All-County trombonist and head of the brass ensemble in the Tri-M Music Honor Society. Outside of the classroom, he worked at CAPE and umpired youth softball and baseball for the East Meadow Little League.

Combining his leadership skills and altruism, Brendan formed his own free tutoring organization called Supreme Test Prep. In addition, he spent many hours performing community service at Hope Fitness, a fitness center for disabled adults. Lastly, he was a tour guide at the Center for Science Teaching and Learning and volunteered at various charitable walks, including those for ALS and breast cancer.

Brendan’s favorite high school memory is being named “Most Likely to Succeed” at the Senior Banquet. “This feat meant a great deal to me because I felt that I had truly made an impact on those around me and that they thought highly of me,” he said.
Even though he was not able to share the last few weeks of high school with his classmates, Brendan wants his peers to recognize their importance at this pivotal time in history. “As we each head out on different paths in life, it is important to remember that we will be shaping the course of history,” he said. “We have the ability to truly improve this world as we progress in life, whether that be in small showings of affection or large discoveries.”

Brendan will attend Yale University in the fall, where he will major in biomedical engineering and economics.

Abishek Ravindran is the Class of 2020 valedictorian at W.T. Clarke High School, and he too boasts a high school career replete with accomplishments. He was named a Coca-Cola Scholars semifinalist and a National Merit Commended Scholar for his impressive academic achievements. Similarly, he was also recognized at the national and international levels for his research in economics, being named a Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar and Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair Finalist.

Abishek’s dedication to DECA, a co-curricular business organization, led him to compete at the state and international levels where he met students from across the nation. He earned first place at New York DECA’s State Career Conference for four years and placed in the top 10 at the international level the past two years. As the New York State vice president of finance, Abishek was able to work with a team of five students from across the state, helping to organize their conference and enhance fundraising initiatives.

DECA has been such a major part of Abishek’s life and his favorite high school memory is from his first International Career Development Conference, held in Anaheim, California, in ninth grade. “Beyond the theme parks and amazing weather, being able to meet and learn from students across the world created an unparalleled experience,” he said. “DECA was really the springboard for my interest in finance and entrepreneurship and has helped me in countless ways.”

Abishek was also the founder and president of the Clarke Entrepreneurial Ventures Club, president of the Math Honor Society, secretary of Science Olympiads and treasurer of the Business Honor Society. He volunteered as a tutor at his local MMM Tamil Organization in mathematics and science, assisting students with course material and test preparation. He was also a research intern at Stony Brook University in applied mathematics, conducting research in computational economics.
As valedictorian of the 2020 graduating class, Abishek wants to remind his classmates that no matter what, they deserve to celebrate their accomplishments. “This has been, to put it lightly, a crazy year,” he said. “And though these are not the circumstances under which I think any of us would hope to be graduating, I think that this shared experience has brought us together in a unique way, and does not take away from the significance of our accomplishments as we graduate. Beyond this year, as so many of our classmates go on to amazing things, we will still be able to count on our bond as Rams and members of the East Meadow community to strive for even greater.”

Not least among East Meadow’s top four graduates is W.T. Clarke High School salutatorian Arjun Panickssery, who merited this position through his leadership, academic prowess and well-rounded high school career. Arjun founded W.T. Clarke’s Quiz Bowl team, in which he and his teammates competed against other schools across the Northeast and the nation in trivia competitions. The newly formed team won second place in the Long Island championships and finished in the top 100 at the national championships last year. This year, they were ranked first on Long Island before the season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. In an attempt to sustain the Quiz Bowl momentum, Arjun organized several online tournaments so teams can continue to play.

Aside from his Quiz Bowl accomplishments, Arjun was a member of his school’s tennis team and participated in Mock Trial and Model UN. He also competed in the Math Fair and Nassau Math Tournaments for all four years of high school.

As a student-musician, Arjun played trombone in the school’s marching band. In fact, his favorite memories of high school are playing in the marching band parades. Arjun will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and majoring in computer science in the fall.

The East Meadow School District is immensely proud of each of these students, their accomplishments, and their dedication to pursuing greatness in and out of the classroom.