Meet Peekskill High School's

    Class of 2023 

    Valedictorian & Salutatorian

    Val and Sal 2023

    Congratulations to Class of 2023 Valedictorian Leonah Esteves and Salutatorian Leysha Esteves! 

    Peekskill City School District and Peekskill High School are proud to introduce the Class of 2023 Valedictorian Leonah Esteves and Salutatorian Leysha Esteves. This is the second time in the history of Peekskill City School District that we have had siblings hold these titles in the same year! These students have shown us how hard work, focus and dedication can result in success. As they prepare for college, the Esteves sisters share a little bit about who they are and what their future holds for them after graduation.

    2023 Valedictorian: Leonah Esteves

    Leonah is the president of both the National Honor Society and Mathematics Honor Society, as well as the Vice President of the Science National Honor Society, the PHS Interact Club and Co-Vice President of the Senior Class. Additionally, Leonah is a member of the Superintendent’s Youth Advisory Council, the Hudson Valley Goan Association and Assumption Church. She gives back to the community in many ways, including tutoring Hillcrest students in math and science and organizing food drives. Aside from her involvement in these organizations and activities, Leonah works as a waitress at Drum Hill Senior Living Community. 

    After graduation, Leonah will attend Barnard College in New York City and hopes to later receive her Master's degree at Columbia Business School. Her career goals include using her entrepreneurship skills as well as her knowledge of Indian herbal medicine to develop skin care products for melanin-rich skin. 

    PCSD: What was your favorite class this year and what did you enjoy most about it?
    Leonah: My favorite class this year was my Peekskill Science Research class. It has provided me the opportunity to intern at Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory for two years. As a science research student, I have conducted two international research studies. For my first study, I collected ocean color data with NASA’s satellite software for climate change research on Arabian Sea phytoplankton blooms triggered by cyclones. During my second study, I found a solution to the overgrowth of the phytoplankton species, Noctiluca scintillans, which is a harmful algal bloom. I have worked diligently as a research student for the past four years. The two studies I have conducted were meant to bring awareness and find a solution to a crisis that my ancestral community faces (my family is from India’s West Coast which is a part of the Arabian Sea). Noctiluca scintillans are known to exacerbate severe fish mortality. The solution I discovered in my second study would stabilize the marine ecosystem and food chain of the Arabian Sea, which 150 million people rely on for sustenance, by controlling the outbreaks of Noctiluca scintillans. 

    PCSD: What do you think it takes to make an exceptional teacher?

    I believe an exceptional teacher is passionate about the subject they teach, and is someone who nourishes a love for learning in their students. I have encountered numerous enthusiastic teachers who have intellectually enriched their students throughout my time at PHS. I would love to acknowledge Ms. Erum Hadi who has been my science research teacher for the past four years. Ms. Hadi supports students in attaining professional skills which include learning how to become a confident public speaker, contacting mentors, and perfecting one's work. With her unwavering support, I was able to bring home three awards from The Westchester Science and Engineering Fair this year by placing third, the Association for Women Geoscientists Award, and the Creative Approach to Research Award. Another teacher I wish to recognize is Ms. Sharon Courtney, my social studies teacher for the past three years. I have taken AP World History, AP African American Studies, Latin American and Caribbean History, and Classism, Racism, and Sexism. I am always excited to walk through her class doors. Ms. Courtney’s classes have fostered my love for learning about the history of various groups and cultures. Additionally, these classes have opened my eyes and encouraged students to become critical thinkers, gaining insight into the perspectives of various people in society.  

    PCSD: What is your philosophy as a student?

    My philosophy as a student is summarized by the late Pelé: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” The success I achieved throughout my high school career was truly attained by diligence, sacrifice, perseverance despite adversities, and pursuing my passions and knowledge. I am blessed to witness the fruit of my labor and prayers.  

    PCSD: What inspires you?
    My parents have been my continuous source of inspiration. As a daughter of immigrants, my parents instilled in me my value for education, uplifting others, and pride in my heritage. I carry these values with me in every aspect of my life. My parent’s work ethic is the root of my diligence and motivates me to achieve my passions. 

    Furthermore, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” This quote by Malala Yousafzi has stayed with me since I read her autobiography, “I am Malala,” in fifth grade. My mother was my first teacher who revolutionized my world with just a book and pen. As a child, she taught me the basics of math and English which set me ahead of my grade level and fostered my love for learning. I attribute my mom to my intellectual curiosity and grace. 

    PCSD: What words of wisdom would you like to pass on to your PHS underclassmen?

    I want to encourage each PHS underclassman to seize every opportunity possible. Become involved in clubs, apply for scholarships, obtain college credits, and take classes that foster your intellectual curiosity. In life, you have to take initiative. By being proactive and taking advantage of the opportunities that are in front of you, a person can discover passions and set themselves up for future success regardless of the pathways pursued. 

    PCSD: What will you miss most about PHS?

    Within my school, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by a student body composed of a diaspora of cultures and backgrounds. This diversity has enriched my viewpoints of people from every walk of life and has always given me a sense of belonging at Peekskill. I will always be grateful to my Peekskill community for empowering me, and I will truly miss it as I start my next chapter in life. 

    2023 Salutatorian: Leysha Esteves  

    Leysha is the President of the Science National Honor Society and Vice President of the National Honor Society. She is also a part of the Francisco Jiménez Chapter of La Sociedad Honoria Hispánica, the National English Honor Society, the Tri-M Music Honor Society, the Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society, the New York State Mathematics Honor Society, and Mu Alpha Theta. 

    Leysha has been a member of the PHS Varsity Swim team as well as the Varsity Track and Field team, a flutist in the Peekskill High School Concert Band and a member of Studio Orchestra. She is also a research student in the Peekskill Science Research Program (PSR) and has presented her findings at regional science fairs. 


    Aside from school related events and activities, Leysha is a member of the Goan Association of the Hudson Valley and works at Drum Hill Senior Living facility.

    After graduation, alongside her twin sister, Leysha will be attending Barnard College of Columbia University where she plans on majoring in  Biology and minoring in Educational Studies. Her love for science and working with the youth has inspired her to become a pediatrician or an educator.


    PCSD: What was your favorite class this year and what did you enjoy most about it?

    My favorite class this year is the History of American Women and Social Change, a college class offered at my school through the University at Albany. I enjoy learning about the perspectives of U.S History through the lens of many amazing women such as Phillis Wheatley, a brilliant poet who gained her freedom through her works. I find learning about the accomplishments of women in our history especially empowering because such representation allows young women to better recognize their own strengths and potential.


    PCSD: What do you think it takes to make an exceptional teacher? 

    I believe an exceptional teacher is one that goes above and beyond for their students. An exceptional teacher is passionate about the subject they are teaching, helps students recognize the significance in the content they teach about, supports a student’s growth, and helps a student recognize their capabilities. An exceptional teacher shows empathy and respect to their students, advocates on their behalf, and is someone a student feels comfortable asking questions to and receiving advice from. I would like to recognize my science research teacher Ms. Hadi, who has taught me since my sophomore year. Ms. Hadi has helped me grow immensely as a student. She has helped me become more confident in presenting and public speaking, taught me to navigate and understand academic journal articles, helped me connect with my mentor, and provided guidance in my environmental research studies. I am thankful for all the support and encouragement she has given me these past few years, and her recognition of my potential and capabilities. 


    PCSD: What is your philosophy as a student?

    My philosophy as a student is to take control of your learning. Take advantage of the opportunities you receive, whether this may be joining an interesting class or extracurricular activity. Such opportunities have helped me grow tremendously throughout my high school career. It is essential to also think critically about the topics you learn in the classroom, to understand a topic’s context, its significance, and how it connects to other lessons you have learned. It is also important to ask questions and to reach out to others for help to receive clarification and better understand more challenging concepts.

    PCSD: What inspires you?

    My family has been a great source of inspiration for me. My parents immigrated to the United States to provide their children with access to greater educational opportunities and the ability to get ahead. Their diligence and sacrifices have paved a path for me, and their support and encouragement has helped me get to where I am today.

    My peers also continue to inspire me every day. The pandemic began in the middle of our freshman year, and so we were required to adapt to learning in a virtual environment for the first two years of our high school careers. My peers are an especially resilient and intelligent group. I have seen them step up to challenges, persevere in the face of adversity, work diligently in and out the classroom, and grow immensely these past few years. I am excited for what the future holds and I wish them the best as we all begin a new chapter of our lives. 

    PCSD: What words of wisdom would you like to pass on to your PHS underclassmen?

    I would encourage them to have confidence in their abilities. Do not let a challenge or failure discourage you or make you feel that you are incompetent. Our challenges generate growth. Consistent practice and feedback allow us to learn and gradually improve our abilities. Remember that you are capable and that the best way to become good at something is by being willing to embrace both challenges and growth. 


    I also recommend taking classes that will allow you to explore potential interests. For instance, if you are interested in coding, taking a computer science class can help you further explore that interest. Joining extracurriculars such as sports, student government, debate, science research, and music or arts programs can also help you find what you are passionate about and obtain new skills. Talk to your guidance counselor, teachers, and fellow upperclassman to learn more about the classes and extracurriculars. Be sure to communicate regularly with your guidance counselor since they can inform you about new opportunities and will help guide you in the college application process or pathways besides college. 

    Lastly, remember to make time for your loved ones. Be kind and uplift others. Remember to surround yourself with uplifting people as well.

    PCSD: What will you miss most about PHS?

    I am forever thankful for the experiences, support, and opportunities I have received during my time in Peekskill High School. I will miss my peers and my supportive teachers and coaches at PHS.


    I will miss the interactions I have with my classmates and close friends. They are a true source of inspiration for me and have made my high school experience fun and exciting.  

    I will miss the immense support I have received from my coaches, many of my teachers, my guidance counselor Mr. Fernandez, and my school’s scholarship coordinator Ms. Gordineer. They have looked out for me, helped me become more knowledgeable about the world around me and emphasized to me the importance of considering multiple perspectives and thinking critically. Mr. Fernandez and Ms. Gordineer have worked diligently to support me as well as other students with the college application and with the process of applying for scholarships. I will forever appreciate their efforts, their advice, and their guidance.