ONEIDA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Throughout the month of June, NewsChannel 9 is shining a light on high school seniors across Central New York who are graduating at the top of their class.

Thursday’s highlighted student is Madeline Harris, the valedictorian at Oneida High School. She tells NewsChannel 9 how the challenges she faced during her senior year have set her up for success in this next chapter of her life.

Being valedictorian is also something Madeline Harris has always dreamed of.

“Really, I’m just so proud of all my peers as well. But it was great to be honored for it,” says Harris.

She was honored and humbled. However, getting there wasn’t easy — especially during a pandemic.

“A large portion of my sophomore and junior year was held virtually, so having that gap in my education was definitely something I had to adjust to in the fall,” says Harris.

That’s not the only hurdle Harris has had to overcome. She’s been balancing school work while trying to gain hands-on experience.

“Another thing that I would consider, that’s been difficult, has been the Allied Health program that I’m a part of. As hard as it is and I am so honored to have been a part of it,” says Harris.

The program is held through New Visions BOCES, which gives students like Harris the opportunity to shadow different professionals at Oneida Hospital.

“It’s a great opportunity to kind of get a glimpse into what I am looking to do in my career and in my future… I’m so happy to have been a part of it,” says Harris.

Come this fall, she’ll make the four-and-a-half hour drive to Boston. Her new home for the next four years.

Harris added, “In the fall, I’ll be attending Boston University, majoring in bio-medical engineering, but also pursuing a pre-medical track in hopes to attend medical school.”

But her dreams don’t stop there. Harris has her sights set on becoming a physician, as a surgeon or anesthesiologist.

Harris has some advice for her classmates and underclassman, and that’s to not let your GPA define you as a person. Harris says to embrace your mistakes and learn from them.

From all of us here at NewsChannel 9: Congratulations, Madeline Harris!

Celebrate the Class of 2022