Weronika Jachimowicz took two senior photos. In the first, she dressed, in her words, “normal.” During her retake, she decided to “go all out” and be herself.
The 17-year-old senior at Mattituck High School took the opportunity to fully express herself, donning layers of accessories, including a pair of black horns, a choker, a spider web necklace, among various other pieces of jewelry.
“I always have been attracted to this kind of style ever since I was younger,” Jachimowicz told TODAY. “I just wanted to incorporate everything I loved, like the multiple earrings, multiple necklaces, just very…out there. I just wanted to really look goth for my final year, because that’s just who I am. I want to go out with a bang!”
She assumed that only the people in her town would see her senior photo, but didn’t expect a slew of people on social media to see it as well after one user shared a screenshot of her salutatorian announcement along with her senior photo. A salutatorian is the student who ranks second highest in a graduating class. With an unweighted GPA of 97.27 percent, Jachimowicz was right behind the valedictorian, Luke Altman.
"Both Luke and Weronika have demonstrated the perseverance and commitment needed to earn the prestigious distinction of Class of 2021 valedictorian and salutatorian," superintendent Jill Gierasch told Patch. "This achievement, especially during these challenging times, is a major accomplishment in their academic careers."
The tweet, which simply read "you go girl," ended up going viral on Twitter last week, accumulating over 500,000 likes as of Monday.
Jachimowicz admitted at first she was nervous after the photo, taken by Pixels Photography, went viral because of some of the negative comments. Then, the high school senior realized she was able to show her true sense of style and inspire people to be themselves.
“I’m happy I get to inspire others because that’s what people have done for me,” she explained. "I am so happy to be able to inspire others to have the self-confidence that it doesn’t matter what others think. You can be who you are and get great achievements while doing it.”
Jachimowicz has been rocking her self-proclaimed “Goth” style since her sophomore year, explaining it was then that she felt as though she was able to truly express herself.
“I finally met people who encouraged me to just be myself and not always be a people pleaser,” she said. “I should really just express myself the way I want, regardless of what others would think of me. If I’m pleasing others, then it’s not making me happy. Is it really worth it?”
She answered her own rhetorical question, adding, “It’s not, because, in the end, you’re not going to be able to make those people happy because you’re not happy."
Jachimowicz would describe her sense of style as “very dark” and “very heavy,” in addition to “unique.”
“I saw this one comment on Twitter where it’s like ‘People must hear her from down the hallway,” she said, poking fun at herself. “It’s true, it is true. I like to make my presence known, what can I say?”
Due to the virality of the Twitter post, she has been lauded for her individuality across social media. "She reminds me of my 16yr old who has gone full goth the last 2 years," one parent wrote. "(She) is unbothered by what people think and literally gets compliments on her clothes and makeup everywhere we go! I love her confidence and wish I had it at her age."
Jachimowicz believes that individuality really just means that you are who you are sans any influence from those around you. While she said her style sometimes alternates between grungy and gothic looks, she doesn’t tend to dress the same every day.
“I don’t like to put myself into a specific category,” she explained. “I just dress the way I want to. I just wanted to break the stereotype. I know a lot of people think that people who dress more alternatively slack off. I feel like that’s very opposite and I was able to break that boundary.”
Jachimowicz was able to overcome the odds throughout her high school career beyond breaking stereotypes. She revealed that during her sophomore year, she was struggling with her mental health and had to take time away from school.
“I thought that I was never going to be able to get back on track with my academics,” she explained. “It turned out to be quite the opposite. It motivated me to try even harder and it brought me to the position that I am in now. I’m very grateful for the fact that I was able to come this far.”
Jachimowicz was a member of various clubs throughout high school, including the National Honor Society, SADD club, president of the Interact club and co-president of the Unity club. She also was a member of the ping pong, fencing and winter track teams, in addition to volunteering at local libraries. Right now, she plans to major in biology and forensics in college after she graduates.
When asked what words of wisdom she’d impart on younger students, Jachimowicz said, “It’s OK to please others, but always put yourself forward and try to please yourself.”
“While it does take time to be able to be fully confident in who you are, it's worth it in the end that you’re able to come out and just express yourself in the way that makes you happy, regardless of what others think,” she added. “It shouldn’t stop you from being able to reach for those high achievements. It’s not impossible. It does feel really good when you do actually get there.”