Though June Criscione excels at virtually everything she does, none of it is without effort.

"What really comes to me naturally is the determination to do well," explained June, the assumed valedictorian for Albany High School's graduating class.

She made a decision as a fifth-grader at St. Pius X School in Loudonville to be a good student. She was recently named a U.S. Presidential Scholar, one of the nation's top honors for high school students, and plans to attend Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., in the fall.

June, a parishioner and sacristan at St. Vincent de Paul parish in Albany, applied to Harvard at the last minute. When she was accepted - which, she says, was based on luck - she deliberated on where to go until mid-April: "I think part of it was just convincing myself I had gotten into Harvard."

Her experiences with advanced placement and International Baccalaureate classes at Albany High have prepared her well for an Ivy League education.

"It's not going to be a huge leap; it's just going to be like a step," she predicted. "I might get more nervous as it gets closer, but right now I'm not too worried about it."

June doesn't see much of a difference between her preparations for college and those of her friends.

"I think we're all pretty much experiencing the same thing," she said. "It's kind of hard to envision that next year we're not going back to our high school."

But her classmates do tease her sometimes: "If I say something wrong in class, someone has to say, 'And she's going to Harvard!' So I can't make mistakes now."

When she's not studying, June juggles a host of extracurricular activities and hobbies, including sports, tutoring ESL students, writing fiction, playing the violin in school and in the Empire State Youth Orchestra and participating in the speech and debate club and Model UN.

She's also played violin in St. Vincent's choir since third grade and previously participated in the parish's summer musical for 10 years. She's played at funerals and the diocesan chrism Mass.

She calls music "a really big part of my experience with religion. That's probably the first thing you notice about a Mass. There are some things that stay more static, but music is a way the Mass can adapt to change in the world. It's an opportunity for contemplation that doesn't necessarily require that you give something."

June said her faith informs many of her decisions, including the positions she takes in Model UN, where students re-create United Nations committee discussions on protecting women during wartime, regulation of genetically modified organisms and more.

"There are so many instances in this world where people don't think about the needs of future generations," she said. "There's a lot in [Catholicism] about doing good for other people."

She's still mulling over college majors, but favors a pre-medicine track with a major in biology in the hopes of treating or researching genetic disorders. She's already completed two summer internships doing lab work with cancer cells and can see herself practicing medicine in developing countries.

"Whenever I think about not going into medicine," June said, "there's a part of me that feels there's not another field that would allow me to give back as much."