NARRAGANSETT—Alex McLeod and Emily Wright, Valedictorian and Salutatorian for this year’s graduating class at Narragansett High School, are equally as proud to be representing their fellow classmates as top students in 2012. They did not, however, see their achievement as the singular goal of their high school career.
“I have tried to represent [Narragansett High School] through a lot of the hard work I have put in over the past few years,” said McLeod. “I wasn’t aiming to be valedictorian, but I am very happy with the results as they turned out.”
“I have been looking forward to graduation for a while now,” said Wright. “Even if I finished third or fourth, I still would’ve been really proud. It is really fantastic for the top 10 to 15 [students] to keep such fantastic grades on top of activities outside of school.”
“I am really excited,” she added.
Wright, who will study Community Health at Brown University in the fall, has learned to become more facilitating with open discussion in classes, as well as become more comfortable in her own ideas during four years at NHS. “I think that, throughout high school, I have gotten a lot more confident with how I approach work,” said Wright. “I like to do independent work, but obviously that is not all the kind of work you do. I have gotten a lot better of asserting my opinion when working in a group and being fluid when problems arise.”
“I think that, for success in college, it is important for students to become aware that they are not the only one with an opinion and who can do good work,” she added. “I will be in school for a long time, so I feel really confident about tackling any projects of any size.”
McLeod has taken a similar approach, focusing more on the process of a high school education than the result.
“One thing that is really important is to be extremely diligent, even when you are not sure what the end will be,” said McLeod. “So I just tried really hard for 4 years. In senior year, you see the difference between people who work to get into college and those with a sense of enjoyment from learning and enlightenment.”
“Those are things that I worked hard on over these four years,” he added.
Both valedictorian and salutatorian have appreciated the impact of Narragansett’s tight-knit community, and credited the work of their peers and teachers for the success that they’ve obtained.
“Because Narragansett is such as small community, you get to know a lot of people and get to see things through other perspectives that you might not see otherwise,” said McLeod. “Unlike in other towns, you don’t have to be forced into clichés here, and you get to know a lot of people.”
For Wright, however, the smallness of the community was also a double-edged sword at times.
“Outside of the academics, the social scene is sometimes challenging,” said Wright. “Everyone knows everyone, so if you don’t live up to people’s expectations, sometimes it is hard. That has come up as a challenge from time to time.”
“But I have made so many fantastic personal connections with teachers at NHS and have a close circle of friends with which I have grown up,” she added. “Overall, Narragansett is a fantastic place to go to school.”
Wright and McLeod, who will study biology at Yale University in the fall, have benefitted from the guidance of many educators at NHS, but cited Biology teacher Adam Reis in particular.
“During [Reis’] accelerated Biology course we took sophomore year, I learned more than in any other class,” said McLeod. “We focused a lot on independent thought and experiences, and I really enjoyed Mr. Reis’ course a lot.”
“I think that so many of the teachers are incredible and go above and beyond what they are required to do,” said Wright. “They take it personally that they are responsible for our well being and learning.”
“Mr. Reis has had the most profound effect on my plans for the future and the sense of accomplishment I feel,” she added. “The projects he gives are thought provoking and require a lot of in-depth learning. I really appreciate the chance to have worked with him over the past four years.”
The memories have been made, and now it is on to another chapter in Wright’s and McLeod’s academic and personal lives. They hope the education and experiences they’ve received at NHS will stand them in good stead.