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By PAUL J. SPETRINI
NORTH KINGSTOWNâ€”North Kingstown High School senior Olivia Edwards is not perfect.
At least, thatâ€™s what she would have you believe.
The valedictorian for NKâ€™s Class of 2012, Edwards says she has learned a lot about herself over the past four years. When she stands in front of her fellow classmates at graduation tomorrow evening at the Ryan Center at URI, the shy teenager with a passion for playing the cello will share what she feels is the biggest lesson sheâ€™ll take away from high school.
That lesson is that life isnâ€™t something scripted and sometimes you may have to ask for help along the way. Edwards learned this practically from her first day at NKHS.
â€śI went to Wickford Middle School and the transition to high school was actually hard for me,â€ť she says â€śI had this idea that in high school everything was going to be perfect and I was going to do all these extracurricular activities. I would never miss a homework assignment and I would get 100 on every test. Everything would be perfect â€“ and, of course, the first week I [was] there, I realized that itâ€™s really not possible.â€ť
A life-long lover of school and studying, Edwards focused almost all her attention on classroom work and while it paid off immediately with a top-of-the-class ranking to end her freshman year, that attention to detail created a lot of pressure.
Even now, in the final week of her senior year, she remembers the times when things didnâ€™t go her way and wishes she could have â€śworked harder.â€ť
She says, â€śThere were a lot of small assignments where I procrastinated or where I didnâ€™t really do as well as I could have. Junior year, I took AP [advanced placement] physics which I guess probably wasnâ€™t a very good idea because I was in over my head.â€ť
Typically, when Edwards faced difficult challenges, she went to her parents, her teachers and fellow classmates for and, ultimately, she got through the class.
It was a successful team approach she brought from another thing dear to heart â€“ playing music.
â€śIâ€™ve been playing cello since third grade,â€ť she explains. â€śItâ€™s an integral part of my life and it gives me an outlet from the pressures of school.â€ť
A member of a youth orchestra in East Providence, Edwards believes the cello has taught her how important it is to find harmony between doing what you want and what benefits everyone else.
â€śIt teaches you to be part of a team and communicate with other people,â€ť she says. â€śAnd itâ€™s important to find balance. Iâ€™m in a quartet and a lot of times itâ€™s two violins, a viola and a cello and you have to find the balance between listening to other people, following [them] and also asserting yourself.â€ť
Edwards made friends through involvement with the high school music program where she played in the pit orchestra for productions of â€śThe Wizâ€ť and â€śWest Side Story.â€ť
For this yearâ€™s presentation of â€śFootlooseâ€ť an orchestra wasnâ€™t required so Edwards auditioned for â€“ and won â€“ an onstage role. It was an interesting experience wherein, she says, she learned sheâ€™s â€śvery bad at dancingâ€ť but â€śsinging is fun.â€ť
Although sheâ€™s the 2012 valedictorian, Edwards insists, â€śI know Iâ€™m not the smartest person in the class. Grades are really based on luck and whether you get support from your parents. Basically everyone in the top 10 or 20 are all pretty much the same.â€ť
She will attend Swarthmore College, in Pennsylvania, a school she chose because â€śthey really care about learning for its own sakeâ€ť and not encouraging competition among the students.
â€śI donâ€™t know what I want to do for a career or anything,â€ť she says, laughing. â€śI donâ€™t even know what I want to major in yet.â€ť
Among other valedictory remarks, Edwards plans to acknowledge others.
â€śWe might take credit for our own accomplishments but, really, we would be nowhere without the support weâ€™ve gotten from teachers and other people who work in the school â€“ janitors, bus drivers, coaches and everyone whoâ€™s helped us along the way.
â€śWe should give them more credit for it.â€ť
North Kingstownâ€™s graduation is set for 6 p.m. tomorrow at URI.