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The Mount Vernon High School Salutatorian John Alex Chooses University of Rochester

Mount Vernon High School senior John Alex will attend the University of Rochester in the fall to make the most of the school’s strong science program, which suits his plans to major in microbiology.

“I’ll have a lot of options,” he said of the careers he might pursue. “I’m interested in working in a hospital or doing research in a company like Regeneron or Pfizer.”

Alex was named his high school’s salutatorian, with a cumulative GPA of 97.65 after seven semesters. With that academic performance, bolstered by classes taken in the school’s new International Baccalaureate program and coupled with his range of extracurricular activities, he was accepted at a host of other schools as well.

He applied to schools in the Northeast to remain relatively close to home and was accepted by Drexel University, Rochester Institute of Technology, the University at Buffalo, Quinnipiac University, St. John Fisher College, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Seton Hall University and St. John’s University, in addition to the University of Rochester.

“John is an exemplary student who has taken full advantage of all the Mount Vernon City School District offers,” said Superintendent Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton. “His achievements and his activities are impressive and epitomize the love of learning and exploration that a Mount Vernon education nurtures in students.”

For Alex, Drexel was a runner up. He eventually opted for Rochester because of its program that allows students to pursue master’s and bachelor’s degrees simultaneously. But, there were also more intangible factors.

“I really like the atmosphere there,” he said. “I spoke to a couple of alumni, and they talked about how everybody was accepting and welcoming.”

He also found that it had a more diverse population than Drexel.

The welcoming feel was similar to the reception he recalls from the Mount Vernon community when his family moved to the city from India in 2010. For a while, the family – Alex, his parents and two brothers – lived with relatives while looking for a place of their own.

“Everyone was very welcoming,” he said. “Everyone helped a lot and was very accepting. We really appreciated that.”

At The Mount Vernon High School (MVHS), he joined the Habitat for Humanity Club, the Student Advisory Club, the Sci-Fi Club, the Mock Trial team and the tennis team.

He also attended a program at Columbia University last summer, where he studied epidemiology – a topical subject during the coronavirus pandemic.

He entered high school planning to pursue studies in chemistry and engineering, but soon shifted his attention to microbiology. He learned much from the school’s classes in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, a globally recognized honors program that pairs challenging academics with a strong social and emotional framework for developing balanced, well-rounded students. In MVHS’s first year of offering the IB program, Axel took two classes, Theory of Knowledge and Environmental Systems & Societies.

To conduct research for the environment course, he consulted with a scientist from the University of Florida who guided him toward studying sea coral bleaching, a global problem. Using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “I studied coral bleaching and how it is related to global warming and rises in ocean temperatures,” Alex said.

Climate change increases the presence of carbon dioxide, “which then causes more global coral bleaching events,” he said.

With that experience, Alex is more ready to take on his chosen university’s well-known science program.

“IB classes really focus on improving your critical thinking,” he said. “Because of what I learned, I am better prepared.”