He brightens the day
SAYVILLE—Philip Rinaldi is the valedictorian for the Class of 2018. “It was pretty exciting to learn that I was valedictorian until I realized I would have to give a speech in front of my whole class, their families, and a number of teachers I’ve had over the years,” said Rinaldi.
The top achiever played piano in the school’s jazz ensemble and pit orchestra throughout all four years of high school. He was also the vice president of the school’s Tri-M chapter and took part in a programming competition through St. Joseph’s College for the past two years.
In addition, Rinaldi spent a week at Monte Cristi in the Dominican Republic while in 10th grade, on a service trip teaching English to primary school children. “Not only was it inspiring to work with children from an impoverished area, it was also fascinating to learn about the DR’s rich history and culture,” he said.
Rinaldi enjoys playing jazz piano, composing music, and reading books about physics and astronomy. He has spent every Saturday this year at the Jazz Loft through Stony Brook University’s pre-college jazz program, where he rehearsed and played with a number of other musicians. “It was an incredibly valuable experience in that I learned, hands-on, what true spontaneity and communication are,” he said, adding that he was also a pianist for the SCMEA All-County Jazz Ensemble.
Rinaldi will be attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., where he will study physics. He also hopes to double major in music. “Physics intrigues me because it is the field in which you can ask questions about the mysteries of the universe, be they about the galaxies light-years away or the invisible components of subatomic particles, and then perform calculations or experiments to try and answer them,” he said. “Of course, this is a bit of a glorified view, but still, a physicist goes to work every day with the goal of finding something out about the natural world that no one knew before—a dream job if you ask me.”
Rinaldi hopes to work in the field of theoretical physics, but wouldn’t be opposed to moving into a more programming-heavy field like software engineering. “A physics degree surprisingly opens up a variety of pathways, and I might even end up finding a different passion while exploring opportunities [in college], so nothing is set in stone and I will keep my options open,” he said.
Rinaldi says he will miss his close friends who he has known most of his life. “We share a lot of interests and experiences and have grown almost inseparable at this point. It will be difficult to adapt to their absence while I’m away at college,” he said, adding that he will also miss the entire Sayville High School music department and a number of teachers who he has developed close connections with over the years.
“I definitely won’t miss the struggle of waking up early every morning,” he said.
Rinaldi cites Herbie Hancock (jazz musician), Richard Feynman (physicist) and Elon Musk (billionaire engineer) as his biggest role models.
When asked about what advice he would give to future graduates, Rinaldi said, “Be kind to everyone, because it means a lot more to people than you might think.” He says it doesn’t take much effort to flash someone a smile, give them a high five, or say, “What’s up?” Doing so, he added, might just brighten up their day. “Moreover, your classmates and colleagues will certainly want to spend time with someone who is not only smart and diligent, but, just as importantly, kind and humble.”
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