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MHS co-salutatorian plans to pursue neuroscience studies at UCLA or NYU
Amanda Christensen is Manteca Highs Class of 2013 co-salutatorian. - photo by Photo Contributed

Amanda Christensen is in an enviable position. The Manteca High School’s Class of 2013 co-salutatorian already has her heart set on studying cognitive neuroscience in college. But she is facing a difficult, albeit, a happy dilemma – whether to attend University of California, Los Angeles or New York University.

Both institutions of learning offer the best education in the field that she is interested in pursuing. NYU, a private, nonsectarian research university founded in 1831 and one of the largest private non-profit institutions in the country, is the alma mater of 36 Nobel Prize winners, 16 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 10 National Medal of Science recipients, among other notable and prestigious honors in academia. UCLA has an equally sterling record of world-famous alumni who have excelled in the same fields of research and other accomplishments.

But what’s giving Christensen pause when it comes to choosing between the two campuses points to a universal dilemma facing graduating high school seniors who are desirous of continuing their education in higher institutions of learning – money to finance their higher education.

“Mainly, it’s financial aid,” Christensen explained the reason why she has not yet made up her mind as to which direction she will go – the East Coast or the West Coast.

“They are two very good institutions,” she said of NYU and UCLA. However, while the home of the Bruins is a prestigious public research university and may not be as expensive as NYU, the private Greenwich Village campus, on the other hand, “gives more financial aid.” And that, in the end, will probably be the balance-tipping factor for Christensen’s final decision.

The Manteca High senior became interested in studying cognitive neuroscience after reading a study about mirror neuron and how “they are looking at that as the major cause of autism and Asperger’s syndrome,” she explained.

“I’m really interested in this study. I’ve a cousin who is autistic,” said Christensen who is graduating with a cumulative GPA of 4.51.

“I really just wanted to get into medical research. I just think if there’s any way that you can help someone, even just one person in the future through research, then it’s all worth it,” she said.

Academic is not the only area in which the graduating Buffalo senior really excels. She has been in competitive swimming for 11 years and was in Varsity swim all of her four years in high school. She was a member of the Manteca Dolphins for a couple of years, and is currently with Ellis Aquatics, a USA Swimming competitive program in Tracy. She has also been a member of CSF (California Scholastic Federation) for three years, was treasurer of Friday Night Live, and secretary for Earth Club at Manteca High.

Outside of school, Christensen has been working for the last two years as a life guard and swimming instructor for the Manteca Parks & Recreation Department.

Between school and swimming, there’s hardly any time left to pursue any other hobbies.

“Swimming takes up the majority of my time,” not to mention burning the candle on both ends studying and reading school textbooks, Christensen said.

The Manteca High salutatorian – she shares the honor with Wendy Lin – is the daughter of Tammy Christensen, a principal at Louis Bohn Elementary School in Tracy, and William Christensen, a real estate broker in the Central Valley. She has an older half-brother and a younger brother who is in eighth grade at Joshua Cowell School.