Class of 2021 Valedictorian: An Interview With Mannut Singh


By Wajiha Rizvi, Staff Writer

As this school year comes to a close, we would like to congratulate Mannut Singh on achieving the esteemed title of valedictorian for the class of 2021!

Mannut participated in a variety of clubs and activities throughout high school. He played on the varsity soccer team, was a member of FBLA and the engineering club. He enjoyed working with his friends on different projects in these clubs and found each to be a valuable, fun experience.

He took part in the Columbia Science Honors program, a prestigious program in which high school students from New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut can attend classes at Columbia University on weekends. The topics varied from astrophysics to biochemistry; however, Mannut particularly enjoyed the computer science classes the program offered and the higher-leveled, challenging courses in biology and chemistry.

He also participated in the Governor’s School in the Sciences in his junior year, a highly selective program. He met other students with the same passions towards the sciences. He found it inspiring to watch other students grow their love for science and thought it was “really cool to be part of such a group.”


Here are some quick, fun facts about Mannut:

Zodiac Sign: Cancer

Favorite food: Chicken Tikka Masala

Favorite color: Blue

Favorite sports team: Chelsea F.C. (Soccer)

Favorite music artist: The Weeknd


We further interviewed Mannut about his high school experiences and his plans for the future.

Q: What would you say was the most challenging part of high school? What do you think you would’ve wished you’d known earlier during this time?

Mannut: Freshman year was the most challenging year for me. I came from Anthony Wayne, which made meeting new people and making friends difficult. However, many of the people I met were friendly, and I ended up sharing classes with a lot of my friends, which was pretty good. I would say that I wish I knew more about time management during this time, and being able to avoid procrastination would have been valuable. Studying appropriately would have also been useful- Sometimes, I would overstudy things that had little return. I wish that I would have used this time to go outside or exercise instead of reviewing something that I didn’t need. 


Q: What was your favorite class or a class that you would recommend to others? How did this class impact you, if at all? 

Mannut: My favorite classes would probably be AP Biology with Dr. Defina or AP Physics I with Ms. Sherger. Biology was fantastic in the sense that it showed the relationship between statistics and proving things in science. The lab portion specifically showed this; proving specific hypotheses was fun. Also, Doc is such a great teacher, and he sparked my interest in biochemistry and biology in general. 

Physics was great as well; Ms. Sherger is such a great teacher. It isn’t focused on memorization, and I enjoyed being able just to break down problems. In the beginning, you will feel like you don’t know how to do anything, but the more physics concepts you learn, the easier it gets. It was fascinating to create solutions and manipulate different variables, and I would highly recommend this class.


Q: Who was your favorite teacher? How did they impact you?

Mannut: It’s tough for me to choose one person because I can list at least 20 different people! If I had to choose, I would say, Dr. Defina, Mr. Green, or Ms. Sherger. All of these teachers impacted my life in such profound ways. They made me interested in science and overall inspired me to continue learning. 

Dr. Saperstein also had a significant impact on me. His class was the first time I could see that history could be more than just memorizing facts. Instead, he allowed me to notice that history is more about recognizing different trends and themes throughout history and using that information to guide your insight. 


Q: How did being an athlete impact your academic experience? Any advice on balancing sports and school?

Mannut: I think playing sports is excellent. I am so fortunate to have been able to play for Wayne Hills these past four years. It was such a fantastic experience, and I made countless memories and friendships with both upperclassmen and underclassmen, which I would have never been able to do if I didn’t do soccer. My advice would be to focus on time management. I know that it can be hard, coming back from practice and not wanting to do schoolwork, but you have to remember that you have to do it later if you don’t do it then. Either way, it’s you doing it, and I had to learn not to procrastinate to avoid the stress and waste that comes with it. You need to remember your responsibilities and goals, and that managing your time correctly is important to get you there. 


Q: We’ve had a strange set of circumstances regarding school and overall life over the past year. How did online school affect you, if at all?

Mannut: I can’t say directly how it affected me since many of my classes are a lot different from in past years. However, it made it more challenging for me to learn intuitively and became less motivated to study. Also, this school year would have been a lot better in-person and a lot more fun. I miss the social aspect of getting to talk to teachers and friends in class. 


Q: Having a senior year (and half of junior year) being online or divided from your peers, do you think it took away from your high school experience?

Mannut: It did. Soccer was a lot different this year, but we still had a really good, long season and played many games, so that was at least salvageable. I miss the seniors from last year, and it was sad to see them go without saying goodbye. Also, I miss going to football games or the student section, which is a massive part of the Hills experience, and we didn’t have that either. Sporting events I do miss because we’re seniors and we’re not going to have the opportunity to support our school again, which was quite sad. In terms of actual learning, I feel that the teachers did a really great job of transitioning to online learning. But, there is always going to be some emotional and physical aspect that can’t be captured. 


Q: What are your plans after high school? What college do you plan on attending? Is there a particular career you are working towards?

Mannut: I plan on going to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) for a physicians-scientist program. I’ll be studying biology for three years and then be in Medical School for the four years after. 


Q: Why did you choose this particular field? Any advice for those pursuing a similar field?

Mannut: I feel that biological research is really interesting if you get into it. I think it’s cool to manipulate compounds and proteins to mirror drugs that we see in nature. Or that we can find ways to address specific diseases and problems that humans have. The experiences that I had in the Governor’s School were relevant to this, observing drug design, seeing what drugs could potentially bind with the coronavirus, and preventing coronavirus proteins from completing their regular functions. These experiences became meaningful to me, getting to realize that you have the power to make a difference in people’s lives. People looking to get into these fields should do some research of their own and read some articles on the specific parts of biology they are interested in. Take all the classes you can, and explore all the opportunities within your reach. 


Q: Outside of school, who are the people who have had the most influence over your life? Who are your biggest supporters?

Mannut: Well, I guess I would have to say, my mom and dad. They both made a ton of sacrifices for me to attend sports and clubs. They put a lot of effort into helping me when I needed it, and finding opportunities to explore my interests. 


Q: What advice/words of encouragement would you give to underclassmen?

Mannut: Take all of the classes you are interested in because if you don’t do what you are interested in, you are just wasting your own time. 


Let’s all congratulate Mannut on his incredible achievements! We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.