2020 Valedictorian – Mackenzie Relihan



The past few months have been far from normal for Benet’s students, and even though the Class of 2020 won’t have their traditional graduation, their valedictorian, Mackenzie Relihan, leaves a warm and lasting message to her peers and Benet community. During her virtual interview for the Herald, she was asked ten questions on her Benet experience and how the past four years have greatly affected her present and her future. Below are the interview questions and Mackenzie’s responses.

How did you develop your strong work ethic?
My family has always valued hard work, so for me slacking off or just coasting have never really been options. But even more so, I am extremely internally-motivated. I’ve never been one of those people who has to be reminded to work hard because I am always pushing myself to be better. Playing sports all my life has reinforced the importance of a strong work ethic. Being part of a team undoubtedly helps you to work harder. You work hard not just because you want to succeed, but because you want your team to succeed. This mentality has always helped me to work hard not just on the field but also in the classroom.

Benet is full of smart students, what did you do to set yourself apart?
To be honest, I think I just work really hard. What makes me different is that I am always pushing myself to be better and better. I don’t really worry about what other people are doing but instead just focus on constantly improving myself in school, sports, and all other aspects of my life. I am never satisfied and believe I can always work harder, be better, and become the best version of myself.
What are your college plans? Where are you going, and what are you studying?
I will be going to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I am not completely certain what I want to study, but I currently plan to major in math and possibly minor in economics or finance. At MIT, I will also be playing on the softball team.

What advice do you have to future Benet students?
Although it’s pretty cliche, it’s true: just be yourself. Don’t worry about what other people are doing, but rather pursue the things you are passionate about and push yourself to be the best you can. And remember that, although Benet won’t be easy and you’ll likely face many challenges, there are always people who you love and whose love you can lean on for support. And finally, just enjoy it. Work hard, but more than anything remember to laugh and have fun, because, trust me, it will be over before you know it.

If you could have a Benet do over, what would you do differently?
To be honest, there is not much I would change. I am so thankful for the people I have met and the teams and clubs I have been a part of. Of course, I have made mistakes and have some regrets, but everything that has happened has made me the person I am today. If anything, I just think I would have reached out and tried more new things earlier. For example, I didn’t join the Robotics Team until I was a junior and didn’t meet some of my best friends until my last few years. Starting earlier would have made my time at Benet just that much better.

Who you would like to thank for influencing, motivating, or supporting you?
I am lucky enough to have had so many amazing people supporting me my entire life. I would especially like to thank my parents, sister Sydney, and grandparents for always supporting me and helping me to be my best. I am also incredibly thankful for my friends and teammates who always make me laugh and have my back even in difficult times. I would like to thank all of my amazing teachers—especially Mr. Adam Akin and Mr. Ken Leszczynski—for always believing in me and pushing me to be my best. And finally, I would like to thank my amazing coaches, namely Coaches Jerry Schilf and Rachel Folden, without whom I would never be where I am today or have the opportunity to go to MIT.

Who are your role models?
I have always been inspired by my family. No matter what, my family always supports each other and stands by each other, even in difficult times. Their loyalty and strength have not only helped me to succeed, but they also serve as role models for the person I want to be. Additionally, my family has always valued education, and even more so, working hard in school. I am so proud to be able to follow in the footsteps of both my grandmother and mother who were the valedictorians of their high school classes.

What would you like the Benet community to know about you?
I don’t really have much to say, except that I am incredibly grateful for Benet. My time at Benet has been challenging, but it has prepared me for whatever I may face in college and beyond. I think I speak for a lot of my classmates when I say that I am not only ready but excited to go out into the world and use the lessons I have learned at Benet—not just in the classroom, but also through all of the amazing people and experiences—to overcome obstacles and follow my dreams.

What would surprise people about you? Any hidden talents or secret aspirations?
Most people know that I am extremely focused on school and also spend a lot of time practicing softball, but many people don’t know how I spend my freetime, albeit limited. I love to make custom cards for birthdays and holidays, play with my two dogs, and watch movies with my sister, who is a film major at Cornell University.

What is your favorite Benet memory? What event or moment will you take away?
I’ve had so many awesome experiences at Benet that it is hard to pick just one. However, many of my best memories come from the Benet softball team. Whether it was hanging out at the hotel during tournaments, hitting fruit at practice, having team sleepovers, or seeing everyone for this year’s Senior Night, I will never forget my time on the softball team. I am so thankful for my amazing coaches and teammates who have taught me so much, made my laugh more than I ever thought possible, and made my time at Benet unforgettable.

Although it is always sad to see Benet’s seniors leave, Mackenzie Relihan is a testament to the Benet community and the lasting legacy it imprints on its students. She, along with every one of her peers, have a bright and promising future ahead of them and even as we say virtual goodbyes to them this summer, the memories of friendship and leadership will always remain. The Class of 2020 wasn’t able to have a full senior year, but every Benet student definitely has a great class to admire and look up to as they journey their way through high school. The seniors will be missed, but as Relihan, herself said, “They made [our] time at Benet unforgettable.”