Jacob, Patel lead Shelton High Class of 2022 into next phase

SHELTON — A world of endless possibilities awaits Shelton High’s Class of 2022 and weathering a pandemic has only made them more prepared for what lies ahead.

That is what graduating seniors Ashley Jacob and Diya Patel, the Class of 2022 valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, want their classmates to embrace as they receive their diplomas Wednesday and walk off into the next chapter of their lives.

“We never could have predicted what our four years of high school would hold, but we still managed to make it all the way to graduation,” Jacob said. “I hope that as we venture out into the ‘real’ world, we remember the people around us who support us each day.

“No matter what they decide to do next, they have the ability to succeed,” Jacob said about her classmates.

Patel agreed, calling on her classmates not to wait for anything.

“If there is one thing these last few years have taught us, there is so much uncertainty in the future,” Patel said. “In just one day, our lives completely shut down because of COVID, and we didn’t even expect it.

“You never know what is going to happen in the next year, month, or even day, so if you have a goal you want to accomplish or something you want to try,don’t wait to do it because you might not get the chance to do it later,” she said.

Ashley Jacob

Jacob, a National Merit Finalist and National Cyber Scholar, said her time at Shelton High allowed her to challenge herself while discovering new areas of interest that will carry through the rest of her life.

“Some of fondest memories from these past four years come from this year,” said Jacob, who will be attending the University of Connecticut to study computer science. “It was so nice to be back in person with everyone for a relatively normal year.”

Jacob was a member of both the National Honor Society and the Spanish National Honor Society, in addition to Cyberstart America, FIRST Robotics, Model United Nations, and Student Council this year.

This year was her first year on the nationally recognized robotics team.

“As someone who considers herself to be more of a STEM person, all of the analytical thinking and problem solving required really connected with me,” Jacob said. “It was fun to strategize at competitions with the rest of my team and was even more fun when we won.”

Jacob recalled the impact of the pandemic — something she says altered half of her time at the high school.

“For me, I often forget about my sophomore year since it ended so abruptly once we shut down,” Jacob said. “Junior year was such a strange experience due to the hybrid model we had and all of the uncertainty regarding what would happen with COVID cases.”

She said she took AP and UConn ECE classes that year and learned that online school is not for her.

“As someone who enjoys being in a classroom environment, distance learning made it incredibly hard to retain information,” Jacob said. “But, as a positive, COVID showed me how important it was to interact with others. During senior year, I didn’t want to miss out on any more opportunities and became much more involved in various extracurriculars.”

Diya Patel

Patek said attending Shelton High had been a wonderful experience.

“The teachers have always been there to support and challenge me, and I have made lifelong friends in these four years,” she said.

Patel said she has completed 13 Advanced Placement courses, learned to fly a plane in aviation and competed against international teams from Israel and the Netherlands with the school’s robotics team.

“This would not have been possible at any other school,” she said.

Patel will be attending Georgetown University as part of the School of Foreign Service, and she will be studying science, technology, and international affairs with a concentration in cyber security. Her hope is to work in cyber security or national defense analytics.

While the pandemic cut her ability to participate in many extracurriculars, Patel said one of the best parts of the Shelton High community was its resilience.

Throughout high school, Patel has been involved in the SHS girls swim team, the robotics team, student council, Junior Statesmen of America, Model United Nations, National Honor Society, and Spanish National Honor Society.

This year, she was the captain of the Gaelhawks robotics team, president of student council, president of Model UN, and an officer of the Spanish National Honor Society.

Outside of high school, she worked as a pharmacy technician, raising money for one-to-one technology through Support for COVID Classrooms; mentored a middle school robotics team; taught precalculus and trigonometry to students in India; competed in parliamentary debate at Yale; completed a research internship at Yale on computational modeling and protein research; worked the polls in Shelton on Election Day; and carried out community service projects at the Shelton Sai Center.

She also was named a National Merit Scholarship Finalist, a Coolidge Senator, received the Harvard Book Award, was a FIRST Dean’s List Finalist, and AP Scholar with Distinction.

In the end, Patel said “Shelton High has been a series of unparalleled opportunities that were only made possible by the constant support from the teachers and faculty and the energy of the school community.”