Herkimer Central School District has announced the Class of 2023 valedictorian as Izabella Vredenburg and the salutatorian as Joshua Leskovar.
Both students took a demanding course load and participated in various extracurricular activities on the way to their academic accomplishment.
“It’s a great recognition of all the work we do at school,” Vredenburg said.
Leskovar agreed that it feels good to receive recognition for academic success.
“It’s definitely nice,” Leskovar said. “This is just a big achievement that only two people can get.”
Vredenburg is the daughter of Mary Jane and Bruce Vredenburg of Herkimer. She will graduate with 28 academic high school credits and 18 college credits through six College Now courses. She took two AP courses: European history and American history. She will receive a Regents diploma with Advanced Distinction with Honors and Mastery in Science.
Leskovar is the son of Amanda and Scott Leskovar of Herkimer. He will graduate with 30 academic high school credits and 18 college credits through six College Now courses. He took two AP courses: European history and American history. He completed five Project Lead the Way engineering courses at Frankfort-Schuyler Central School District. He will receive a Regents diploma with Advanced Distinction with Honors and Mastery in Science and Math.
Rounding out the Herkimer Central School District Class of 2023 top 10 are Lilliana Langdon, Melia Couchman, Oksana Yudchits, Hannah Allison, Jenna Riesel, Abigail Polus, Lyla Williams and Kendall Biamonte.
‘Do the work’
Vredenburg will be attending the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences for microbiology on a pre-med track. Her goal is to become a doctor. She doesn’t know what she wants to specialize in yet, but she has looked into pediatrics the most thus far.
Leskovar will be attending the Rochester Institute of Technology for biomedical engineering. He plans to decide during college if he wants to work more on the engineering or medical side of what he is studying. He has mainly taken engineering classes in high school, so he thinks of that as the front-runner, but he is considering everything.
The valedictorian and salutatorian were interviewed together for this story, and they were asked what about their approach to school helped them succeed.
“I would have to say I’m definitely a perfectionist,” Vredenburg said. “I’ve always tried to manage my time well. I’ve always tried very hard, but I feel like our whole class is very competitive with school, so I just know that I wanted to push myself to get to this point.”
“Honestly, it’s just show up and do the work,” Leskovar said. “As long as you show up and do all of your work, you can’t go wrong. In the top 10, everybody deserves to be there.”
The seniors also provided advice for younger students who want to do well in school.
“Put in the effort,” Vredenburg said. “Apply yourself, and things will work out.”
“Show up. Do the work on time. And I think a good one is: advocate for yourself,” Leskovar said.
He noted that teachers and counselors want you to succeed, so if you disagree with a grade or want to fit another class in your schedule, you should talk to them about it.
“Things don’t just happen for you,” Leskovar said. “You have to do them yourselves.”
‘Nice to be involved’
Vredenburg’s extracurricular activities include Student Council president, Class of 2023 treasurer, Yearbook Club, National Honor Society and volleyball. She has won awards including the Le Moyne College Heights Award, and through the Veterans of Foreign Wars Voice of Democracy essay contest, she won first place at the district level and fourth place in the state.
Both students also participated in the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) New York East Leadership Seminar.
Leskovar’s extracurricular activities include Student Council treasurer, Yearbook Club treasurer, National Honor Society vice president, cross country, soccer, indoor track and outdoor track. He has won awards including winning the Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizen Award for the district and being named a Commended Student in the 2023 National Merit Scholarship Program.
The students said they’re glad they fully immersed themselves in their high school experience through sports and clubs.
“It was nice to be involved,” Vredenburg said. “You meet more of your classmates, your peers and everybody. You get more relationships with teachers. Overall, I think it’s just nice to impact the school in a positive way.”
Both of them also said it’s a way to “expand your circle.”
“Especially as you progress, you’re with the same people all day, so clubs and extracurriculars are kind of a way to get out of that and see people from different grades and different people in your own grade,” Leskovar said.
Vredenburg and Leskovar are also looking ahead to giving their valedictorian and salutatorian speeches at the Herkimer Central School District Class of 2023 Commencement on June 23.
“School’s kind of dying down, so that’s the last thing to focus on,” Leskovar said, adding that he plans to keep the speech “short and sweet.”
Vredenburg said she doesn’t want her speech to be too long, but also wants to make an impact. She plans on talking about what thoughts come to her.
“I’ve got some ideas that I’ve written down as they come,” Vredenburg said. “I really want to look back at my time here and say what I feel needs to be said.”
Herkimer Central School District Class of 2023 salutatorian Joshua Leskovar (left) and valedictorian Izabella Vredenburg (right) pose in the Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School Library Media Center in front of recognition plaques including a plaque honoring Herkimer High School valedictorians and salutatorians.