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Salutatorian Leaves Mark at Mamaroneck High School

Nothing could faze Grace Phillips after meeting the President of the United States, save the speech she will give at graduation as the Mamaroneck High School class of 2011 salutatorian.

"I am very excited for graduation, though I must admit, extremely nervous to give a speech," said Phillips.

The Yale-bound Larchmont resident is ready to move onto college, but said there has been a lot of nostalgia during the last few weeks of her high school career -- and, in Phillip's case, the term "high school career," has never been more appropriate. Phillips was the co-captain of the math team, a member of the school's symphony orchestra, as well as a vocalist, pianist and violinist. But most notably, Phillips participated in the three-year elective Original Science Research (OSR) program, in addition to her full course load.

"I really like the curiosity and critical thinking required for science research," said Phillips, whose favorite subjects are biology and physics. "I am fascinated with how and why things occur."

Phillips studied the overall evolution and genetics of eggplants for the science research program, which requires participants to identify an area of science that interests them and conduct a research project under the guidance of a professional scientist in that field over the course of the program.

"This helped me to gain real research experience early on and helped me to clarify my interest in science," Phillips said. "I am considering a career in scientific research, most likely studying genetics."

Phillips entered her project into the Intel Science Talent Search, a national science research competition, and was one of 40 finalists in the country selected out of the 1,700 students who entered.

She is also the first finalist from Mamaroneck High School in 20 years, said Guido Garbarino, head of the OSR program. "I'm not surprised she's salutatorian because I consider her to be brilliant, not only brilliant but hard working," he said. "At the same time she's humble. Once she achieves something she's always looking to move forward and do more."

As a reward for being an Intel finalist, Phillips presented her research to "world-famous" scientists in Washington D.C. She met President Barack Obama, Garbarino said. Phillips also showed her research at the annual symposium held on May 23 this year in the high school library, and in less than one week Phillips will present her final act as a high school student.

"It means a lot to me to get this honor," Phillips said. "I was always told that learning something was more important than any grade on a test. I think this mindset helped me to strive for success at MHS."

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