Oneida High School will hold its commencement for the class of 2023 later in June and Nation Member Madison Ray (Turtle Clan) will have a big role in the event. Madison is the salutatorian – the student that ranks second in the graduating class – and that means she’ll be giving a speech about her experience.

It’s something Madison is a bit nervous for, but ready to take on. She has a lot to look back on over her four years.

“It’s been really fun this year,” she said. “Covid was difficult, but it was nice this year to dive into a lot of projects.”

Madison is typically very busy during the week with the clubs she participates in. She said she is in National Honor Society, the Science Olympiad, Environmental Club, and Teens for a Better World – all while maintaining her part-time job at Price Chopper.

It’s a hectic schedule, but it drives her to work hard. It’s a characteristic her family, especially her mother, Maureen, instilled in her at an early age, even when she would go to the Oneida Indian Nation’s Early Learning Center.

She participated in other Nation programs as well, including the Youth Work-Learn Crew, which she says was a positive experience working around the Nation community doing various tasks from cleaning, weeding exterior areas around Nation buildings, and ending with the popular cultural dig.

Now, Madison is excited to start classes at Hamilton College in nearby Clinton. It was a tough decision between Hamilton and Colgate University, but she feels Hamilton was the better fit.

“I knew I wanted a small school,” Madison explained. “When I visited, I think the vibe of it fit me and I knew I wanted to be in that community.”

She plans to continue studying science. Her favorite class this year was AP Chemistry and she has already declared a major in biochemistry.

“I like all of the sciences,” she said. “Learning more about the world around me fascinates me. I’m taking 30 college level credits with me as well, which will give me the flexibility to try different things.”

When asked about her plans for a career, she thinks something in the pharmacy field, bio-engineering, or cytogenetics would be good fits. It’s an ambitious plan, but one she is excited to start.

“I’m just excited to finish this year strong and meet new people,” she said. “My mom has been a great role model for me and I want to continue to make her proud.”