Pierson Valedictorian Hannah Tuma Is Ready for the Challenges Ahead

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Pierson High School's 2019 Valedictorian Hannah Tuma.

Hannah Tuma graduated as valedictorian of Pierson High School. She was part of the International Baccalaureate diploma program, a rigorous academic program recognized worldwide. She said the IB diploma taught her time management and gave her a strong work ethic, which she thinks will serve her well in college.

“It was really challenging and there was a lot of work, but I think was worth it,” she said, adding that it was “teaching in a different way” and it showed her the interconnectedness of all of her classes.

She’s always liked math and science; calculus was her favorite class. But the IB diploma program also allowed her to take a visual arts class. She spent two years creating artwork around a theme. At the end, she curated her own exhibition.

“It was a cool way to explore things you liked,” she said, adding that she wrote her 4,000-word IB extended essay about prehistoric art and language in Australia and Europe.

While not usually a fan of history, she enjoyed her History of the Americas class; the students learned the material through interactive debates, which heightened her interest in the subject.

Hanna started attending Pierson High School in 10th grade after attending Mercy High School in Riverhead. It was a “pleasant surprise” when she found out that she was valedictorian because she was relatively new to the school and hadn’t taken classes with all of the other students. But she said she was also “really excited.”

“It’s something I feel like I’ve been working toward my entire academic career,” she said.

Hannah said her parents pushed her to be the best that she can be, although she’s also self-motivated.

“I always just wanted to do my best,” she said. Her grandmother, who passed away this year, also had a big impact on her.

“She supported me with everything I did,” Hanna said. “She really motivated me”

In the fall, Hannah will attend the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, which she’s excited to attend. She’s considering majoring in biochemistry but remains undecided. She likes that the school has academic flexibility, so she’ll be able to choose her own curriculum.

The large size of the University of Virginia will give her the ability to meet new people every day, she said, which she’s looking forward to after living in Sag Harbor almost her entire life.

Though she doesn’t choose her class schedule until later this summer, she’s seen a lot of classes in the course catalogue that interest her, including “What is Noise?”  and other humanities and science classes.

She’s considering continuing Model UN or joining a debate club, but she definitely wants to get involved in intramurals sports, she said.

While not yet sure what she wants to do as a career, Hanna discovered an interest in law after doing mock trials in seventh and eighth grade.

Hannah said she’ll miss the benefits of being at a small school, like being close to students in her class. She’ll also miss the “small, unique things that come with going to Pierson,” such as Homecomingwhere grades compete for points by creating skits, lip synch battles and floats—spirit week and Whaler Day.

“I’m going to miss Sag Harbor,” she said. “I’m going to miss my friends, but I’m excited to move on to something new.”

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