Graduation 2017: Meet Darien High's valedictorian and salutatorian

Komal Dhull

by Claire Borecki

Teen Times Reporter

Darien High School Valedictorian Komal Dhull moved to Darien with her parents and younger sister the summer before her freshman year, after growing up in Stamford. Dhull had attended Westover Elementary school and Scofield Middle, two public magnet schools in Stamford. But when she didn’t get into the magnet high school, the family moved so Komal and her sister Ria could receive a better education. It was an effort with a payoff; due to her performance at DHS, Dhull will be attending Carnegie Mellon’s computer science program in the fall, one of the best computer science programs in the country.

Despite her many accomplishments, Dhull is quick to praise her others. In response to the award, she simply says, “I’m glad I guess…but it’s not really a huge deal to me. There are a lot of people I know who worked really hard and are probably just as qualified.”

She lavishes a particular praise on her parents, who have instilled the importance of learning in their daughters and made sacrifices for their education.

“My parents always had an emphasis in good grades. But it was never ‘you have to take this particular class and have this particular distribution to be valedictorian,’ Komal said, “they had high expectations, but encouraged me to make my own path and enjoy learning.”

Both work as software developers, which kickstarted Dhull’s interest in computers, although she didn’t quite know this early on.

“They wanted me to learn to program, but throughout middle school I stayed away from it because I didn’t want to do what my parents wanted me to do,” Dhull said, with an apologetic reminder that such an attitude is hardly rare for a middle schooler.

In addition to academic success, Dhull has pursued other interests at DHS with the same zeal, contributed to many different aspects of the school community. She is involved in programming club, is a co-captain of the well-respected Debate Team, is the secretary of the National Honor Society, and participates in math team and the musical honors society Tri-M. She is first chair violinist in the pop strings orchestra ensemble, and has been involved in outside youth orchestras. She also volunteers regularly at the Carver Center and Stepping Stones Museum.

Dhull has spent her senior internship in a first grade classroom at Tokeneke elementary, and she absolutely loves working with children. “I’m so sad for it to be over,” she says. But despite her professed major of computer science, she thinks she will be able to involve that work in her future. “I want to do  something with the intersection of education and computer science,” Dhull said, “because I love kids and psychology and I know I want to major in computer science.”

Although Darien presents its fair share of pressure to students looking for first-tier college admission, Komal emphasizes that her activities and hard work don’t only belong on a resume. “One of the most important things is that I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve done. There’s a ton of pressure to do these specific things for college. It was never like that…I did things I enjoyed,” Komal said. “If I hadn’t done that I think I wouldn’t have done that well, because a lot of my motivation came from doing things I liked. If you do things you like, the resume will follow.”

Dhull also highlights the importance of choosing a personally challenging academic curriculum. “I enjoyed all my classes. I’ve been able to take classes I’m interested in and actually learn the material,” Dhull said. History is her self-professed worst subject, and she took the AP instead of taking an easy A in honors orchestra her senior year. “I took AP European History this year…because I make interesting life decisions,” Dhull laughs. “But we should always make decisions to challenge ourselves.”

Indira Flores

by Kelly Moran

Teen Times Reporter

Meet Indira Flores, a senior at Darien High School who has received the honorable title of salutatorian for the class of 2017.

While high school movies and television shows tend to focus on the valedictorian, the  job of the Salutatorian is an extremely impressive and important one that deserves to be shared. Being the Salutatorian means Flores will give the first speech at the graduation ceremony. You’d think one would be nervous for an event like this, but Flores seemed calm and collected as she revealed a little piece of what her speech would entail —“it will have advice that I have been learning to take––something that I think everyone, including myself, will benefit from taking.” Understandably, she didn’t want to give away too much so you’ll have to attend to receive her imparting wisdom.

When asked, Flores admitted that this position was never a specific goal which she worked toward, but rather a testament to the impressively hard work that she had put in throughout her high school career. In fact, she was not aware that she would be the salutatorian until the night of a special award ceremony held for the students at DHS a few weeks ago when her name was called.

“It’s a huge honor” Flores exclaimed, “because I know that there are so many talented kids in our graduating class. I am just happy to be graduating with them all.” According to Flores, she could have never achieved this without the help of her mother in particular, for it was her mom who “from the beginning, instilled a love of learning in [Flores].” She has grown up with the encouragement “to always do [her] best.” When asked about what “doing your best” means to her, Flores thought for a while: “It’s about trying to improve yourself. If you’re comparing yourself to others, it’s just a losing can’t live like that.”

Flores, who will be attending Yale in the fall as a biology major on the Pre-Med track, has been extremely involved in the community ever since she came to Darien. From the age of three, she has been doing ballet, and her love of music has taken her to DHS’s own advanced chamber orchestra where she is a First Violinist. She is also involved in pop strings, an extracurricular ensemble at DHS which gave her the opportunity to write and perform her own solo in one of the group’s performances. She hopes to join several music and dance groups at Yale, especially so she can branch out and try Latin or Bollywood dance.

Aside from her passion for the arts, Flores is very interested in science, and even started the Science National Honor Society at DHS, which she was the president of up until graduating. Flores explained that she “wanted to encourage a dedication to science in the community.” With the help of a few teachers, specifically Mr. Lewis, the head of the Science Department at DHS, Flores made it possible for students who are really interested in the sciences to be acknowledged for their accomplishments as well as challenged to push themselves further into the field..

Flores has also devoted her time to Global Connect, a volunteer club at DHS dedicated to helping underprivileged communities in the area as well as globally. As the club treasurer, she helped organize fundraisers and activities along with the rest of the club, her proudest of which include helping out with the refugee crisis and gathering a group of volunteers to assist with Inspirica, a shelter in Fairfield County.

For the past month, Flores has been interning with the Clinical Research Group of the Cardiology Physicians of Fairfield County, which she has enjoyed thoroughly. She has gained a great deal of knowledge about medical research, and wishes to enter the neuroscience department to research the human genome “to better understand what is really going on with genetics.” She wants to gain “a better understanding of the genetic disorders out there” so she can “help the world.” The last part she says with a laugh, but you can tell, this is one thing she is certain to accomplish.