No one said Julie Baldassano and Alan Yang needed to earn perfect scores on the SATs in order to earn the Upper Dublin Medal, but it surely couldn’t have hurt their chances.
The two Upper Dublin High School seniors were named this year’s recipients of the medals for being outstanding students.
At first glance, the two 18-year-olds are remarkably similar. Besides being in the same grade, at the same school and their perfect SAT scores, both said they will be studying science at Harvard University this fall, both are classically trained piano players starting when they were five years old, both are avid runners, both are the recipients of numerous academic awards and prizes and both are incredibly involved in extracurricular activities in and outside of school.
Their similarities aren’t lost on them either.
“Oh, my God, everything that either of us ever get, we get together,” Baldassano said, laughing. “We’re both valedictorian at [the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University] … it’s just like every award I’ve ever gotten, Alan has gotten. It’s funny.”
Both students also said they are extremely honored to receive the award.
“I know considering all the talent in Upper Dublin in previous years, I feel just really honored and humbled to have received this award,” Yang said. “I feel really fortunate that I had the opportunity to learn in the Upper Dublin Schools … I’ve had amazing teachers, principals and counselors along the way, as well as the superintendent. It’s been a great environment for me the whole way.”
Yang said through his time at Upper Dublin, he was able to learn new things and have new experiences each year that have helped him to grow as a person.
Baldassano said it took a few moments to realize she wasn’t dreaming when she learned the news.
“At first I was kind of nervous,” Baldassano said. “Because the night before I actually had a dream. I dreamt that I didn’t win. So when it actually happened, I said, ‘OK, is this the real one?’ It’s pretty embarrassing. Once I realized it was actually real, I was ecstatic.”
She said her older brother, Chris, is a past recipient of the award and was able to understand how much of an honor it was because of his experience.
In case their SAT scores didn’t prove it, both students are incredibly bright individuals. Baldassano has a 4.867 grade point average, while Yang has 4.897. In preparation for their interviews with The Ambler Gazette, both students provided unsolicited copies of their resumes, which include their various first place prizes at science, mathematics and other academic competitions and programs. Among them are the summer science academy at the University of Pennsylvania (Baldassano) and the USA Mathematical Olympiad (Yang.)
Each is also highly involved in extracurricular activities.
Baldassano is president of the astronomy club, vice president of the chemistry club, class president, community service chair and co-president and former treasurer of the Key Club, to name a few of many.
Yang is co-president of the Future Business Leaders of America club, co-president of the Latin club, president of the math club, art editor of the literary magazine and general editor of the school newspaper.
Both have also run on the school’s cross country team at different times.
Outside of school, both have found ways to give back to their communities.
Baldassano said she’s an avid knitter and raised $5,000 for the Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue by selling knitted hats to her friends and family members.
Yang put his piano skills to work by organizing and participating in a variety of fundraising concerts and has raised money for the American Heart Association, the Ronald McDonald House and the Hope for Henry foundation, which looks to bring smiles to faces of children with cancer and other illnesses.
When they learned they’d been picked as this year’s recipients of the medals, Baldassano said it was quite a treat.
“There’s a tradition with [Superintendent] Dr. [Michael] Pladus, where he reveals who won,” she said. “He brought us into a room and brought out water ice; it was Rita’s water ice. It was him and [school board President] Dr. [Art] Levinowitz. It was a funny situation.”
For those looking to follow in Baldassano and Yang’s footsteps, Yang said it’s all about pursuing passions.
“I would say find things you love and stick with them,” he said. “Be it a sport, or a club, a subject in school, find something that you love doing and hold on to it. Work hard at it and never let go of your goals, aspirations or dreams.”
The UD Medals were awarded May 21 at Manufacturers’ Golf & Country Club, 511 Dreshertown Road, Fort Washington.
Follow Eric Devlin on Twitter @Eric_Devlin.