In Albany High School’s AP calculus class sits the school’s valedictorian and salutatorian, who are both wrapping up the school year.

For Pyae Sone Hmine, this year’s valedictorian, the end of high school brings mixed emotions.

“It feels really exciting and also really emotional at the same time because I’ve only been here really a year, because last year was COVID,” said Hmine.

He moved to the district in the midst of a pandemic, and only really got a taste of being inside an Albany classroom last September. Before coming to the Capital Region, Hmine and his family lived in Myanmar.

“Walking into this school in person the first time was really different for me because growing up, I sat in a class of 20 kids and the teachers just switch and that’s it,” says Hmine, “Now, I’m the one that’s going to classes, and I would meet kids that I’ve never seen in the hallways.”

It’s something Tonema Mitra, the class’s salutatorian, understands. She and her family moved to the United States from Bangladesh six years ago.

Both Albany’s valedictorian and salutatorian are English language learners.

“I’m really proud of that, honestly. I think that it’s amazing to show how when you have the determination and the confidence to do something, you can actually do it,” said Mitra.

Mitra will attend Northeastern University next fall. Hmine won’t be far away, enrolling in MIT.

Their words of wisdom for other students? Don’t be afraid to go after your dreams.

“It doesn’t define where you’re from, but who you are as a person, what you do in the future,” said Mitra.

Hmine said, “Try hard and focus on what you want to do and don’t let other people talk you out of it.”