The Warrior

Valedictorian: Daniel Puczko

By Angelika Mazurek, Reporter

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According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, a valedictorian is the student usually having the highest rank in a graduating class who delivers the valedictory address at the commencement exercises. For senior and former LTAC Daniel Puczko, Div. 878, being valedictorian means so much more.

When Puczko was officially named valedictorian, he experienced mixed emotions.   

“I was surprised, happy and scared at the same time,” Puczko said. “Surprised because I saw the list of the students I was competing with for the title, and all of them deserved to be named valedictorian as much as I did. Happy because there is the nature of a competitive swimmer in me and every time I am able to win, I feel accomplished. Scared because before I applied to be valedictorian, I did not realize that I would be standing in front of 8,000 people, trying to keep them awake during my speech, and this might not be an easy task.”

As Puczko addresses his valedictory speech to not only students, but teachers, friends and family, he wants to be remembered as more than just the valedictorian of the 2018 graduating class.

“Some people will remember me as a designated distance swimmer, science geek or a person who often set the curve in the class,” Puczko said. “But I would really like to be remembered as a good friend and a valuable human being.”

In his valedictory speech, Puczko plans to highlight that graduation should be an inspiration for setting new, more challenging goals.

Coming from a Polish background was challenging for Puczko because it brought responsibilities toward his family and culture. Over time, he came to the realization that the majority of Lane students face similar challenges every day, and that his Polish origin was not a hardship, but a blessing.

“I grew as a person and developed skills necessary to communicate with others that have different beliefs and different ways of life,” Puczko said. “Through exposure and interaction, I learned appreciation of other cultures and became open to new experiences.”

Attending LTAC ignited his passion for science and a dream about continuing his STEM education throughout college. Puczko has won the school level Science Fair competition for five years now. He has been able to display his projects at regional, city, and state levels.

In 2015, he was chosen to be the first alternate to attend the International Science Fair.

In 2016, Puczko was one of four finalists of INTEL. INTEL is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, according to Student Science. That same year, Puczko presented his microbial fuel cell research in Arizona.

Puczko has been presented with multiple awards, many of which were monetary. According to Puczko, he considers the Environmental Protection Agency Excellence Award to be one of the most important ones.  

“I compete in science fair not for honors or awards, but to be able to receive judges’ suggestions and criticisms that I try to incorporate into my work,” Puczko said.

Puczko aims to further his science and swimming passions at Harvard University, where he will be attending next fall, and plans to study molecular and cellular biology. Puczko also plans to join the Harvard Swim Team.

Teammate and friend William Quan, Div. 855, got to genuinely know Puczko his sophomore year.

“I think that everyone just thinks that he is really smart, which is true,” Quan said. “I don’t think that I have ever met anyone smarter than him, but he is also a great person. He has a really great personality, he cares about how other people feel and doesn’t try to put others down or try to be condescending. Danny is a really hard worker at everything he does. At practice, he is always doing the hardest setand he pushes himself as much as he can.”

Puczko believes that every single teacher, counselor, coach and friend that he has met along his journey has always believed in him; at times even more than he believed in himself.

“Lane is a place where teachers not only pass necessary knowledge onto their students, but also support them and give every single one of them needed attention,” Puczko said. “It is a place where a diverse student body can coexist in peaceful harmony, trying to teach one another respect for culture and traditions. It is also a place where I met friends that will stay with me for life. Lane simply helped me grow up in its friendly, but not overprotective, environment.”

 

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Valedictorian: Daniel Puczko