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Jun 22, 2018 2:59 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton High School Valedictorian And Salutatorian Look To The Future

Jonathan Gomez Barrientos, the salutatorian of the East Hampton High School Class of 2018. JON WINKLER
Jun 25, 2018 3:25 PM

An airborne graduation cap—that’s the last thing many teens see before transitioning from high school student to college student. After that, there are the hugs from parents, high-fives from classmates relieved to have survived high school … and then the question: What’s next?

For Alexander “Nick” Sigua Pintado and Jonathan Gomez Barrientos, this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian at East Hampton High School, it could be a future in a U.S. Senate room—or in a spacesuit.

Nick, 18, is heading to Harvard University, while Jonathan, 17, is heading to Cornell University at the end of the summer. Nick plans to study either political science or economics, while Jonathan will be studying astrophysics.

Until they head to Ivy League schools, each will be spending his summer like many other teens post-graduation: working.

Two days after his last day of classes on June 11, Jonathan started a job at the UA East Hampton movie theater to start saving money.

“I’m just really excited to work with some professors,” Jonathan said. “I want to meet some people who are as passionate about learning as myself. At Cornell, I feel like everyone has this emphasis for learning—they love it, and that’s why they’re there. I want to get different perspectives from everyone, and I think that’s valuable.”

Nick is keeping busy this summer working with his dad, Benjamin, doing landscaping jobs. He said he’s still freaked out by how quickly the time approached for graduation, which was on Friday.

“It’s pretty surreal right now, because you don’t think it’s ever going to end, but then you realize that everything’s been leading up to this,” Nick said about a week before the big event. “Everything’s about to change, and that’s kind of daunting. But at the same time, it excites me.”

This isn’t the first major change in Jonathan’s life, or address. He moved to East Hampton from Guatemala City when he was only 7 years old at the suggestion of his grandmother, who was living in East Hampton at the time.

“She saw that we were in a bad situation over there, a difficult economic situation,” Jonathan said. “My mom thought about it, and she was, like, ‘You’re right—I want my kids to have a bright future, and I don’t see a future for them over here.’”

He admits that moving to an entirely new country at age 7 “felt really weird.” It was even weirder when he enrolled in school, not fluent in English. Though East Hampton schools teach English as a second language, Jonathan said he picked up a new language much quicker: math.

“The only thing I really liked about school was math at first,” he said. “The reason why I like math so much was because I found comfort in that language, because it’s numbers … I found that easier to learn than the other subjects.”

Jonathan’s interests broadened, however, as he joined extracurricular groups at school. He played junior varsity and varsity soccer in high school, was a member of the high school’s Academic Team and traveled to the Eastern African country Malawi in 2017 to help build a primary school for a local village.

Nick also was guided to his future by close family members, as he credited his godmother with starting him off on his path to law school.

“Since third grade, I wanted to be a lawyer,” Nick said. “It’s always been a thing for me—I like to argue. It was more sentimental in the beginning, because my godmother said to my mom, when I was really young, that I was going to grow up to be a lawyer. She was really good to my family—I practically was raised with her, so I always wanted to do that for her.”

While he hopes to use a law degree, and a focus on economics, to break into the corporate world, he’s more recently developed an interest in political science, as well. His interest intensified, he said, during his sophomore year, when he watched presidential debates for the 2016 presidential election. Growing up in Springs, he noticed a disparity of wealth, doing landscaping work with his dad at mansions and then returning to their relatively modest home.

“One of the main goals that I always want to do is to give back to my community,” he said. “The best thing to promote is education—that’s the number one thing. I’d probably give a lot back to schools and try to up the level of education so that kids have a chance to move up in society.”

As for Jonathan, he said his personal aspirations were inspired by watching the Curiosity, the NASA land rover that touched down on Mars on August 5, 2012.

“I was just scrolling through the TV, and it happened to be the day that it landed, and it was all over the science channels, and I was, like, ‘Oh, this is pretty cool,’” he said. “From then on, I was just reading stuff, because I found this really interesting to me. I kind of liked stuff that’s dealing with the universe, its origins and how it works.”

Regardless of what they’ve done in the past, both boys know what they want to be involved in by the time they get their footing at college.

“I look forward to joining some of the clubs there,” Jonathan said. “One of the clubs I really want to join is the astronomy club—I’ll definitely join the first day I get there. I want to try new things.”

“I want to be able to tell people that I’ve been doing stuff in the political scene,” Nick said, later referencing the opportunities at Harvard’s Institute of Politics that he recently became acquainted with. “That was really interesting to me. So I want to tell people that I’ve been making big moves with big players of the game.”

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Congratulations! Well done! You worked hard and earned those wonderful titles. Not sure why Southampton pathetically removed those titles from their highschool. Sad!
By Sasa (8), Southampton on Jun 24, 18 4:09 PM