Meet Walt Whitman's 2014 Valedictorian and Salutatorian

Whitman Principal Kathie Acker congratulates her two top academic students, Taylor Parrish and Thomas Hustedt.
Whitman Principal Kathie Acker congratulates her two top academic students, Taylor Parrish and Thomas Hustedt.

Every once in a while he catches his parents staring at him. They hug him and tell him again how proud they are of him. Thomas Hustedt doesn’t grow tired of his parents' reassuring words and warm hugs. He knows that in a few short months he’s off to the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University in South Carolina to study engineering, and like hundreds of his Whitman classmates, college begins a whole new chapter in his promising young life. He will miss his parents' hugs. Thomas says he will miss his life here in South Huntington too, and especially Walt Whitman High School. “There are a lot of students here, and each year I’ve been able to meet so many new people, some younger and some older,” said Thomas. “There is so much diversity, and I’m really happy that I got to know so many people here.”

Thomas took full advantage of the activities at Whitman and as an Eagle Scout in Troop 34. Thomas plays the mellophone in the marching band, is a member of the National Honor Society, and is the secretary of Mathletes. Thomas does not want his extremely high GPA to define him; he feels that all of his experiences at Walt Whitman and in South Huntington have helped to create what he calls a "well-rounded character." “Whitman’s been good to me,” said Thomas. “I’ve really enjoyed my time here.” Congratulations to Walt Whitman’s 2014 valedictorian, Thomas Hustedt.


Taylor Parrish concedes that she’d like to know "everything" some day. “Even though I know that’s impossible, since knowing everything is impossible," she says. "But I really like learning things. I could be forever happy, continually learning,” said Whitman’s 2014 salutatorian. Taylor has been pursuing her passion for learning from a very early age. “My mom would always bring me books to read, and I liked to read the NY Times with my Dad,” said Taylor, who will be attending the nation's oldest technological university, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, next fall.

Taylor is interested in furthering her love for math, but she is also interested in a wide range of physical phenomena, so she plans to pursue studies in astrophysics or theoretical physics. But don’t get the idea that Taylor’s head is up in the stars. This very well balanced and focused young lady possesses an outgoing personality that has thrived at Whitman. “The people here make life so interesting,” said Taylor. “Whitman is a diverse group of people who all come together and create an inclusive environment.”

The quest to continually learn more has always been a part of Taylor. That quest keeps her in constant motion. To leave academia behind for a while and still further her thirst for learning, she plays the clarinet in the award-winning Wind Ensemble. Taylor is an out-of-the-box conceptual thinker, so there is a good chance that her quest to know everything will take her on a very interesting path. Congratulations to Walt Whitman’s 2014 salutatorian, Taylor Parrish.