Southold High School announces Valedictorian, Salutatorian for Class of 2023

Southold High School formally announced its valedictorian and salutatorian for the Class of 2023 in a brief but exciting ceremony at the school Friday afternoon.

“The honors of salutatorian and valedictorian are not awarded for a single moment, event or grade,” high school principal Terence Rusch said during his announcement. “These honors are meant to distinguish students who have demonstrated tireless dedication into their academics and a commitment to Southold Junior-Senior High School over the course of four years.”

Danna Duarte earned the top spot as valedictorian with a GPA of 100.41. She plans to study computer science at Princeton University this fall.

Before presenting her with the award, Mr. Rusch described Danna’s many achievements.

“This incredible student is highly motivated, kind and leads with an outstanding work ethic. She is a Questbridge college credit scholar, a national college match finalist, Advanced Placement scholar, a member of the National Honor Society and has achieved high honor roll.”

A dedicated four-year member of the school’s NJROTC program, she was honored as the battalion operations officer and has won several state awards through the program. Danna is also a member of the school’s robotics team, Southold Town Youth Court, Sentinel Club, International Club and plays in the school’s orchestra in addition to serving as the vice president for her class.

“She leads by example and grace,” Mr. Rusch said.

Earlier this year, Danna was selected to attend the Puerto Rican and Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute in Albany at a statewide mock assembly this year. Fluent in both English and Spanish, Danna is also in her fifth year of studying French. She has been recognized as a Gates Scholarship finalist and has received honors through the American Legion and College Board.

“I’m honored to be the valedictorian,” Danna said. “I’d like to thank everyone who’s helped me along the way, especially the teachers and my family for supporting me.”

Her parents attended the ceremony and were left speechless at their daughter’s accomplishments.

“It’s so beautiful that it can’t be defined with words,” her father, Roberto Duarte, said in Spanish. “It’s so beautiful for us to be able to see our daughter at this stage in her life.”

The school’s salutatorian is Anna McCarthy, who earned a cumulative GPA of 100.13. Anna has not committed to a university yet but would like to study psychology.

“This amazing student is a driven, focused and determined young woman,” Mr. Rusch said.

She is the senior class president, an Advanced Placement scholar, a scholar athlete, and member of the National Honor Society. She achieved high honor roll as well, Mr. Rusch said.

Anna is the NJROTC battalion commanding officer — the highest positioned leader of over 200 cadets — and has received the NJROTC Sons of the American Revolution New York State cadet of the year award as well as the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross.

“Only 11 cadets in NRJOTC of 80,000 receive this award,” Mr. Rusch said.

She is a member of the Blackjacks; a subset of the college National Soceity of Pershing Rifles. The organization is considered to be the honor society of Southold’s NJROTC. 

“She has concluded as of today with 33 ribbons and 28 medals awarded for leadership, academics, marksmanship, drill and physical fitness,” the principal said.

Anna is also on the varsity volleyball team, the co-captain of the varsity quiz bowl team and chief editor of the school newspaper. She’s a member of the environmental club, drama club, radio club, yearbook committee, sings in the select choir and plays the flute in the school’s jazz ensemble.

“It’s definitely been a stressful ride throughout all of high school but just to be in this moment right now, it’s worth it,” Anna said.

Anna’s father, Joe McCarthy only had five words to say: “I’ve never been so proud.”

The senior guidance counselor, Caitlin Appel, presented both ladies with a silver box to celebrate the achievement.

“I’m so proud of them and they deserve every second of it,” she said. “They are so hard-working.”