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White Plains Valedictorian Will Pursue Engineering

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - Four years ago, Daniel Petralia attended his first graduation to watch his sister receive her White Plains High School diploma.

“I heard the valedictorian’s speech and I was like, ‘It would be so cool to be in that position,’” said Petralia, 18, this year’s valedictorian. “Now I’m freaking out because I have to give a speech... The choir always sings at graduation. So I was used to singing for everyone else and now it’s like wait this is not supposed to be me.”

After a lifetime in the White Plains School District, Petralia graduated at the top of his class with a 5.313 grade point average. Valedictorian status required him to give a speech at the high school’s graduation ceremony Thursday night . Petralia was used to performing in school musicals, however, he was skittish about speaking before the crowd at the Westchester County Center.

“I felt almost unworthy to be making a speech,” said Petralia. “I wanted to acknowledge the kids who had it difficult. White Plains is a public school so it’s people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. There’re kids who have to translate stuff to their parents or who have to work to support their families. But they’re graduating. So I commended them.”

Petralia plans to pursue engineering at Cornell University. However, he’s still waiting to hear back from the University of Pennsylvania and would consider transferring if he got in.

In the meantime, Petralia will be working at Benchmark Title Agency, a small law firm, and relishing his last few weeks in his hometown.

“I’m going to spend a lot of time with friends,” said Petralia. “I’m going to miss White Plains High School... I’ve lived here my entire life so obviously I have a connection to my home but, I’m excited for a new beginning.”

He may need a while to adjust to the downtime. Petralia ran cross country, competed in long-distance and steeplechase track races, toured places like Carnegie Hall as a tenor in the school choir, and helped out in Our Lady of Sorrows church’s first grade classroom.

White Plains High School principal Diana Knight said Petralia has no shortage of ambition.

“He’s a singer, a dancer, an actor, a New York State scholar, and a National Honors Society scholar,” said Knight, who has known Petralia since he was in sixth grade. “He’s just got that kind of personality: a doer, a get-involved type.”

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