By DAVID PEPIN
One was born in China, and didnâ€™t arrive in East Greenwich until he was in third grade. The other has spent her entire live here.
But East Greenwich High School Class of 2011 Valedictorian Han Xu and Salutatorian Julia Stevens have plenty in common: high achievement, friendship, and some podium time coming up Sunday.
The classâ€™ two top students will be recognized at this yearâ€™s commencement ceremony, to be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Providence Performing Arts Center.
The R.I. Academic Decathlon teammates whose resumes include a state championship last year and runner-up finish this year, as well as a run of Math Team division titles and National Honor Society membership, may have hit the books hard, but found plenty to remember fondly about their four years at EGHS.
â€śOur class has a lot of personality,â€ť Stevens says. â€śItâ€™s not normal for an Advanced Placement business class to break into applause when someone enters the room or does something.â€ť
Xu, meanwhile, didnâ€™t feel the pressure many other high school seniors to. Been there, done that.
â€śI wish I had planned my junior year a little better instead of overloading on the hard classes,â€ť he says. â€śSenior year was much easier.â€ť
Xu was also part of the schoolâ€™s fledgling Science Olympiad team in his sophomore year. It improved to a top 10 finish last year, and sixth in the state this year.
Stevens has also participated on the school tennis and sailing teams, Drama Club and Gay-Straight Alliance. She also served as president of the Game Club.
Having attended many of their classes together, Xu and Stevens say the faculty members who influenced them were Math Team and Academic Decathlon adviser Frank Lenox, chemistry teacher Celia Schnack and French teacher Julie Barone.
Xu will attend Boston Universityâ€™s seven-year medical program and plans a career in surgery or internal medicine. He is the son of Jianping Wu and Yu Wei Cang, who left China and originally settled in West Warwick before moving to East Greenwich. Much of his Chinese extended family, he says, now resides in New England.
Xu visits his homeland every two or three years, and always finds much changed.
â€śWhenever Iâ€™ve gone back, Iâ€™ve seen completely new buildings,â€ť he says, adding little is left from his childhood.
Stevens wonâ€™t be going far to college: just up Route 95 to Brown University to study chemical engineering.\
â€śIâ€™ve known most of my classmates since first grade, and never had to go through any big changes. When you grow up in the same town, you get to feel comfortable, but Iâ€™m ready for something new, even if itâ€™s only 20 minutes away,â€ť she says.
Xu says the sense of community is the most valuable asset heâ€™ll take away from EGHS.
â€śYouâ€™re a small school, and getting to know everybody is something to cherish. You wonâ€™t have that again until you settle down,â€ť he says.
Stevens says the greatest gift sheâ€™s received to use in the future is a sense of time management.
â€śFor three straight semesters, I had all honors classes, and still got to bed by 10:30 each night,â€ť she says.