Lincoln Academy Class of 2023 Salutatorian Ava Nery (left) and Valedictorian Matthew Long (right).

Lincoln Academy has announced their Valedictorian and Salutatorian for the Class of 2023. Matthew Long of Jefferson is this year’s Valedictorian, and Ava Nery of Newcastle is the Salutatorian. As is tradition, both will give speeches at LA’s June 2 Commencement.

At the end of the second trimester of senior year, all seniors who have attended Lincoln for at least five trimesters have their GPA calculated. Whoever has the highest accumulated GPA from all four years at Lincoln is the valedictorian, and the student with the second highest accumulated GPA is the salutatorian.

“Matt and Ava are both excellent students, as their grades attest,” said LA Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kelley Duffy. “Their hard work and creativity are worthy of recognition. Teachers frequently comment on Matthew’s positive attitude and willingness to support his peers in the classroom. Ava is known for her excellent writing both in humanities and sciences, her creative thinking, and her incisive wit.”

In addition to being top students at LA, both Long and Nery are all-state musicians. Both are members of the Lincolnaires advanced choir, and Nery also plays trumpet in the jazz band and tuba in the wind ensemble, while Long plays flute in Wind Ensemble.

After graduation, Nery will attend Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York state, where she plans to study biochemistry, with the goal of eventually going into genetics studies or biotechnology. In addition to her science courses, Nery said, “I am excited to join a bunch of clubs, including French club, jazz ensemble, and chamber choir.”

Nery attributes her academic success to always maintaining connections with her teachers, even during the Covid shutdown and hybrid year. “There has never been a time where I felt completely lost or overwhelmed academically because the teachers I have had are really supportive and helpful. I always try to turn work in on time, which helps keep that connection. Certain subjects have always been a challenge for me, like math. But throughout high school there has always been someone there to help: whether it’s my teacher, an older student, or another teacher in the department. So many people have offered their support, and they have done that without judgment.”

Nery’s advice to students striving for academic excellence is to always set yourself up for success by doing the work. “School can be fun and there are a lot of distractions, but try to study when you have a chance; maintain that academic focus. Also–don’t be afraid to ask for help. Teachers have lots of resources when you need them.”

Long will attend Gordon College in Massachusetts where he plans to study music education with the aspiration of being a music teacher and conductor. He will embark on Gordon College’s five year joint Bachelors and Masters degrees in Music and Music Education. He will enter with a Musicianship Award given to 12 incoming students at Gordon College, which comes with a substantial scholarship.

Long attributes his academic achievements to his family, including his father Brian Long, who passed away during Matthew’s junior year. “My father started his own business. He always used to say, ‘you need to make life work for you, so that you don’t work for life.’ Until he got sick, he worked every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. I can honor his memory by working hard and doing what I want to do. Both of my parents have really supported me and helped me take advantage of what life has to offer.”

“My advice to everyone else is to set goals, and then exceed them. Take big tasks and break them into small goals, and then exceed each one. Some days your goal may be to get out of bed, some days it might be to go run a mile. Six years ago I would not have believed myself capable of this achievement. I would have been like, ‘me? You’re kidding, right?’”

In middle school Long had learning disabilities that made it very difficult for him to write, and credits his middle school teacher Jeanne Stover with helping him turn school around. “I was just sitting there, a little anxious ball, and she said, ‘I’m going to help that kid.’ I owe that to her as well–not just helping me with the writing, but the anxiety as well.”

“Find the people in your life who are going to help you!” Long advises. In addition to his parents and Ms. Stover, for him that list includes LA music teachers Liz Matta, and Emily Anderson and retired LA choir director Beth Preston, who continues to teach him private voice lessons.

“Matthew and Ava join a long line of scholars who have made Lincoln Academy proud,” said LA Head of School Jeffrey Burroughs. “We look forward to hearing what they have to say on graduation, and to following their future adventures.”

Nery and Long will deliver their traditional salutatory and valedictory addresses at Lincoln Academy Commencement on Friday, June 2 at 4 pm. Unless extreme weather forces the ceremony inside, the public is invited to attend.

The complete schedule of 2023 Graduation events can be found at this link.