Valedictorian Tucker and Salutatorian Howse Shine in Graduating Class


Photo Courtesy of The Mahiscan

Valedictorian Abby Tucker (left) and Salutatorian Gabi Howse (right).

Rebecca Herzberg and Fatimah Khan

With 24 students with GPAs of 97 or above, the MHS class of 2021 is an extraordinarily gifted group. Two of these exceptional students stand out: Abby Tucker, the valedictorian, and Gabriella “Gabi” Howse, the salutatorian. 

Abby Tucker was the ultimate team player within her academic courses, music ensembles and varsity softball team. Whether it be collaborating with any student on a project, providing extra help to students in her music ensembles, or cheering on her teammates from the bench when she had to break from pitching, Tucker’s compassionate and thoughtful personality allowed her to excel in everything she set out to do.

Described by her guidance counselor, Helaine Lichtenstein, as a student who is “always looking to do more,” Tucker was unphased by her difficult course load junior and senior year, which included Precalculus Honors and six AP courses: US History, English Language, Physics 1, Biology, Government and Politics, and BC Calculus. She also took Chinese for four years and privately studied AP Music Theory her sophomore year. 

Tucker found Chinese to be the most challenging, but also her favorite, course at MHS. “It’s a whole new skill set: writing the characters, making sure you’re doing all of the different pronunciations, and, of course, grammar and sentence structure,” she explained. The course’s difficult reputation has led fewer students to take it, but Tucker was able to find light in this, noting that the small class size makes “it a really tight-knit group.” After teaching Tucker Chinese for four years, Michelle Liu describes her as consistently “work[ing] very hard, never giv[ing] up, [and] always participat[ing] in class.” Tucker’s work was often used as an example for other students. “She truly is a student role model,” recalls Liu.

Her leadership did not stop in the Chinese classroom. In orchestra and chorus, she served as a section leader for almost every ensemble she was in — Jazz band, Symphony Orchestra, String Quartet, Chamber Orchestra, Swing Choir, Concert Choir, and Pit Orchestra for musicals. “She’s here every morning at 7 AM, five days a week,” Elyse Gellert reports. This early start to her day was never a source of complaint for Tucker, though,  because she had access to prime parking. “Abby is the kind of leader that other kids trust,” explains her chorus teacher, Amanda Gundling. “She makes them feel comfortable when sharing their voice.” Her appreciation and drive for music allowed her to shine on the violin, viola, piano, and chorus. Tucker rose to every single musical opportunity accessible to her. She served as the recording secretary for the Tri-M Music Honor Society; she was recognized on the state level in both the string and symphony 2020 All-State orchestras; she played in Carnegie Hall on multiple occasions; she performed a major piano concerto (Saint-Saëns Concerto No 2 in G Minor). All of her musical instructors will remember her for her bubbly and enthusiastic personality. “I don’t know if there’s anyone in our orchestra that has as much fun as Abby Tucker,” reflects Gellert.

When she was not busy practicing her endless sheets of music, Tucker was outside on the softball field, a sport she has played since third grade, leading her team as a captain and pitcher this past season. “Going into this season, she was our only seasoned pitcher which came with a lot of responsibility,” remarks softball Coach, Susan Hannon. As with all of her other challenges in life, Tucker rose to the occasion and successfully pitched seven consecutive games in less than two weeks. When she needed to step back and rehabilitate, her enthusiasm for her team was unphased. “She is a huge supporter on the bench and tries to help out in any way she can,’’ Hannon remarks. Her “hysterical and humorous sense of humor” will be greatly missed by her coach and team. 

This fall, Tucker will attend Georgetown University where she plans to study political science and potentially minor in music. Once there, she hopes to continue playing music and join the orchestra. Her advice to younger MHS students is to “recognize when you know your material and can just go to sleep,” and, most importantly, “have fun in high school!”

This year’s salutatorian, Gabi Howse, was also a remarkable student and member of the MHS community. Her academic excellence is clear in her rigorous coursework, which included classes such as AP French, AP Physics C, AP BC Calculus, AP Macroeconomics, and AP Literature during senior year, and Honors Precalculus, AP Language, AP United States History, AP Physics 1, and Honors French during junior year. 

Howse also took AP Computer Science in her junior year and looks back on the computer science electives as some of her favorite classes, as she found them to be very engaging, and watching her programs succeed to be rewarding. Robert Hohn, her computer science teacher, describes her as a “very curious and studious” student who “strives to know the why behind a concept, not just the what and how.” Outside of the classroom, Howse pursued her passion for computer science by assisting Hohn in teaching middle schoolers in the Excel through Math Club. She was also the co-president of the Computer Science Club. 

Howse played violin and viola in MHS’s orchestral ensemble for all four years of high school. Outside of the classroom, she participated in the Pops Orchestra, Chamber Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, and played in the Pit Orchestra for musicals. Throughout her career in music, which began in third grade, Howse has been selected for multiple County and Statewide festivals, including the 2020 NYSSMA All-State Conference. This spring, she played the second movement of the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major as a soloist. Elyse Gellert, her orchestra teacher, describes her as a “multi-talented, passionate, and well-rounded student” who “is always inquisitive in rehearsals, responsible about her part, and takes her music education seriously.” Additionally, Howse went above and beyond to teach and mentor her peers in the orchestra as a section leader and the Senior Vice President of the Tri-M Music Honors Society. “Gabi is not only a terrific student, but she is a teacher as well. She is passionate about helping others and supporting those who need it,” explains Gellert. 

Outside of MHS, Howse continued her passion for aiding others through her year-round job at the New Rochelle Rock Club teaching younger students how to climb. She also climbs competitively at the club, which she says, “taught me how to get out of my comfort zone.”

Howse also co-led the Midnight Run Club, and enjoyed going on runs prior to the pandemic because “it’s amazing to be able to put the work in to gather donations, put together bags of toiletries, and make food, and then be able to personally hand it to someone who really needs it.” Other fond MHS memories include eating with her friends in the senior lot over the past year, spending time with those not in her cohort, and celebrating the graduating class’ accomplishments on Decision Day. 

Howse was not only a high-achieving student, musician, and athlete, but a cheerful and positive role model for her peers. “Whether it was a difficult exercise that she had to develop a program for, a bug in her program that was difficult to find, or just managing the sheer amount of work that she took on, Gabi always did so with a smile,” says Hohn. Her humility and kindness were also extraordinary. Gellert characterizes her as “always approachable and so kind to anyone who interacts with her” and “exuding such positive energy and spirit.” Between her academic aptitude, a wide array of talents, and friendly demeanor, Howse is sure to “continue to climb that rock wall and will certainly reach the top,” in the words of Gellert. 

Howse will attend Carnegie Mellon University in the fall of 2021 and plans to major in computer science. She advises MHS students to “choose courses that actually work for you and fit your schedule and learning style” and not to hesitate to reach out to teachers if help is needed because “no one ever gets yelled at for asking for help!”