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Class of 2024 Valedictorian on Being Number One

Class of 2024 Valedictorian on Being Number One

Jai Desai, SWMHS’s class of 2024 valedictorian, has worked extremely hard to get to where he is today. Despite his outstanding academic achievements, this is the last factor that should be used to define him. “I’m more than just a number and academic accomplishments,” said Desai. 

Desai’s core motivator is – and always has been – medicine. This passion first sprouted when he visited his grandpa in the hospital due to a heart condition. He did not quite understand the inner workings of the hospital: the wires, the drips. The doctors explained what they could with a keen sense of compassion, resulting in an undying curiosity. “The doctors made it digestive for somebody my age,”  said Desai. 

In chasing this dream of becoming a medical professional, Jai has interned at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City doing various kinds of research. This hands-on clinical experience allowed him to see a different side of the field. “Without it, I would not have been able to see so many specialties in a medical setting,” Desai said. This life-changing experience completely altered his view of his future, deepening his passion for medicine. 

Though working his way up to being number one has been academically challenging, there are social obstacles that come along with this title as well. Desai’s vigorous work for thirteen years is the last factor that should define him as a person, friend, and son.

Through the years, Desai has experienced several accounts of jealousy and deliberate objectification from friends and peers at school. People have reduced him down to grades and numbers. They ignorantly use Desai as a comparison for personal gain. “It is just dehumanizing. It reduces you, makes you feel less,” said Desai. All his worth being determined upon one insignificant aspect of himself is hurtful and unrealistic. 

Desai’s first two high school years were miserable: he was burnt out. Prizing academics over anything else did more harm than good. It became increasingly more difficult to be productive and produce quality work with no other priorities. The fatigue and stress were taxing on Desai’s mental health which at the time, seemed impossible to reverse. 

After two years of this struggle, Desai knew he needed to adapt to a new plan and managed to strike a balance between his social life while still excelling in his rigorous coursework. He began to prioritize his time in a new and healthier way. 

Assignments were either saved for closer to the due date or done quickly after being assigned in accordance with his plans. This taught Desai to work quickly and enjoy life significantly more. “It is a lot easier to work academically when you are enjoying life,” said Desai. Life was put into an improved perspective, showing him that life is so much more than school, grades, stress, etc. 

“Be kind to yourself. You’re not gonna be perfect and that’s okay,” said Desai. From middle school to sophomore year, Desai lacked self-compassion. It was not until he realized his value and saw life beyond academics that he was able to care about himself. This journey to becoming valedictorian was difficult, but Desai has become a wiser friend and an incredible role model.

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