High school salutatorian whose yearbook photo went viral hopes to inspire others to be themselves: 'It's OK to be different'

Megan Sims
·5-min read

Late last month, Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District reported that students Luke Altman and Weronika Jachimowicz would be the class of 2021's valedictorian and salutatorian respectively. Both of the 17-year-olds have final grade point averages over 97 percent, Patch reports

Though the students's accomplishments alone are cause for celebration, it wasn't their grades that caused a stir. Rather, it was Jachimowicz's awesome senior portrait in which she proudly donned dark burgundy hair, a horn headband, black makeup, pentagram earrings along with a choker and other black jewelry. 

A side-by-side photo of the high-achieving teens was shared on social media, with one tweet in particular going viral. 

"You go girl," Dr. Jules Lipoff wrote of Jachimowicz.

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As of Thursday, the post has been retweeted more than 40,000 times and other social media users took to the comments to share how much they not only love her look, but also the fact that she is being her authentic self.

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Jachimowicz tells Yahoo Life that she found out that she went viral after getting a direct message from a friend on Instagram.

"Lo and behold, I did," she says. "It was all just a shock to me, and it still is. But I am extremely flattered and happy. The positive [reactions] have greatly overshadowed the negative ones at this point and I couldn’t be more grateful. I’m really happy that we are heading in a time where acceptance of people’s differences are so important."

In the past, Jachimowicz has struggled with being open about her interests, adding that her style has been inspired by various things — like music, art and "dark culture" such as skulls, spiders and death — that could make people uncomfortable. 

"I was always trying to please others and be like what everyone else wanted me to be, or at least try to fit into what was 'normal.' However, I did slowly start to realize that it’s OK to be different. I’ve met people in my life who gave me the confidence to fully be myself. Even if others don’t really like my style, it’s what makes me happy and I’ve worked hard to finally come to that conclusion," Jachimowicz explains.

Now, Jachimowicz proudly embraces who she is, and even shares it with the world by posting dark yet stunning photos on social media where people take to the comments to let her know how she inspires them.

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"You’re inspiring me to stay in school, i was going to drop out of college but now i’m reconsidering," one commenter wrote under an Instagram post.

Jachimowicz admits that she feels "over the moon" knowing that she is helping others. "In all honesty, that’s all I wanted. I wanted to help anyone I could who is struggling with expressing themselves because I’ve been in the exact same position. When people message me telling me how I have given them the confidence to be who they truly are, I almost cry from happiness."

And she notes that when it comes to expressing yourself, it takes a lot of courage, but wants people to know to take your time, it's a journey.

"It is okay to please others, but make sure to always try to please yourself first. So if you are not happy with who you currently are, then that’s the cue to find out who you are meant to be. It’s a self-discovery journey and it could be a long one, but it is one that is worthwhile and necessary for true happiness," she advises.

Beyond fashion, Jachimowicz's other extracurricular activities include running track, fencing, playing ping pong and attending art portfolio club. She's also the co-preseident of the Unity club. And while juggling it all during a normal year is challenging, Jachimowicz noted that it was difficult to keep up her grades during the pandemic.

"[What helped was] definitely just keeping true to myself. I always wanted to do the best that I could do even if there is a major obstacle, like the pandemic, I will always try my best to not let it get in the way of my education," she says.

After graduation, Jachimowicz plans on going to college to major in biology and forensics in hopes of becoming a forensic pathologist/medical examiner.

Related: First Black valedictorian and salutatorian pair in school’s history

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