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By PAUL J. SPETRINI
NORTH KINGSTOWNâWhen North Kingstown senior Stephanie Andersen learned, in her sophomore year, she ranked second in the class of 2012, she knew the rest of her time in high school could be spent either chasing the top spot or accepting that every aspect of your life canât be controlled.
âAs a sophomore I was really proud of [second place] and I definitely wanted to keep that spot,â she recalls. âBut after a while, I just had to let go and realize you can only do your best and see where it goes from there.â
This attitude paved the way for Andersenâs success and though she laughs when people ask her âWhatâs the salutatorian?â, the University of Virginia-bound senior is proud of what sheâs accomplished.
âIâm totally fine with it,â she insists. âI am not going to lie: I tried hard to do my best this year and maybe to move up one spot but Olivia [Edwards] is a great person and I really respect her. She deserves to be number one. Itâs not a big deal to me in the long run because all of us in the top 10 â our grade point averages, everything about us â weâre so close to each other. Once you get to that level of student, you canât really compare them.â
Andersen is content with her runner-up because she focused on not disappointing herself, her teachers or her parents.
âMy dad says Iâm not a particularly smart person, I just use brute force,â she says with a smile. âI power through textbooks that I do not enjoy reading because if I donât, I feel guilty. Iâm very hard on myself but I think my success in high school was definitely not based on a desire to crush the competition. It was more of a desire to do my best and fulfill my potential.â
While many students in her position at the top of her class would get lost in their studies, Andersen made sure to create balance with friendships and activities. Outside the classroom, as a member of the girls cross country team, she found the greatest rewards.
She credits friends with pushing her to tackle things besides academics and that led Andersen to athletics. âBeing part of the cross country team was a great experience,â she says. âRunning is a very relaxing outlet because you can think while at the same time you focus on improving your running abilities and just getting outside your shell.â
Andersen, who plans to study biology at UVA and going on to medical school, also believes community service and leadership (she was vice president) of the local National Honor Society chapter helped her grow scholastically and personally.
Andersen says sheâll always be grateful to those who helped her succeed.
âI think our whole class was very supportive and encouraging,â she states. âWe all wanted each other to do our best and I think thatâs what Iâll take away. I know itâs clichĂ©d but we really have become a family
âI appreciated that [during] the past four years.â