After four years at Yeshiva University (YU), Toronto-born Ari Cuperfain has graduated as valedictorian of Yeshiva College, an uncommon feat for a Canadian at the New York-based university.
“It was very humbling,” said the 22-year-old chemistry major, who will be starting his graduate studies in the same discipline at the University of Toronto this summer. “The calibre of students there is really great, so it was very nice to represent them.”
Last semester, Canadians comprised about 3.6 per cent of YU’s undergraduate body, which totalled 2,137.
Cuperfain spoke at the May 29 awards ceremony, where he discussed applying the values taught at YU to the general world. He said he emphasized the importance of ethics and taking the moral path.
Cuperfain said he was nominated for valedictorian of Yeshiva College, YU’s undergraduate college of arts and sciences for men, because he was in the Top 10 in terms of grades.
He sent in a personal statement and resume outlining his involvement on campus, including a program he helped create called Student Teachers and Researchers Teach Science (START Science), which brought him into elementary school classrooms to interest kids in science.
He said the program is an example of some of the opportunities for students at YU. He also spent a year in Israel studying at Bar-Ilan University prior to enrolling at YU, and when he was considering YU, he worried that he would be at a disadvantage compared to graduates from secular schools.
However, a representative from YU told him that students at secular universities often spend their spare time in Jewish extracurricular activities such as Hasbara or Hillel. But at YU, students typically spend their time in the chemistry club or on the debate team.
For example, “I’m a science guy and I did a lot of stuff in the writing centre,” he said.
That kind of involvement enriched his experience at the university, he said, so his advice to a student thinking of entering the school would be to take advantage of every opportunity.
“Seek out these opportunities and don’t be bashful in terms of going outside of your comfort zone,” he said.