SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Erin McAlice and Richard Wu, Valedictorian and Salutatorian of South Kingstown High School’s class of 2012, were both surprised and excited when they learned they were at the top of their class.
“At the end it’s very close between the top five people,” McAlice said. “Richard and I were very close. I don’t think it’s necessarily a competition, I don’t think any of us saw it that way.”
Wu echoed McAlice’s sentiments, saying that while they were all vying for the top spot, they were still willing to help one another out.
“It was more of a group effort, like how can you help me how can I help you,” Wu said of the top students in the class. “It’s not like, 'I want to beat you.'”
McAlice was active in sports and clubs throughout her four years at SKHS. She played field hockey and competed in gymnastics for the school as well as through USA Gymnastics. She was captain of both the field hockey team and the gymnastics team in her senior year. She also cited her volunteer work with the Matty Fund each summer as something that was important to her throughout high school.
“I would like to continue something at the club level,” she said when asked if she will play sports in college. “Probably field hockey.
McAlice will attend the University of Pennsylvania where she will study nursing, Spanish and possibly healthcare administration.
“I definitely debated for a while between nursing and medicine but for me I’m more interested in the personal relationship with patients, I think I’m more of a people person, so I liked that about nurses,” she said. “I liked that nurses seem to be the ones who their job is to create that environment of healing.”
McAlice applied to 12 schools, her top choices were Boston College, the University of Virginia, Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania.
She made her decision following a recent visit to Philadelphia.
“I liked the city environment,” she said. “The nursing program is one of the best and they have a lot of affiliations with different hospitals [for me] to get experience. When I visited there it was just kind of a feeling.”
Salutatorian Richard Wu opted for a liberal arts college in a smaller town. He will attend Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., where he will major in applied mathematics and computer science.
Though he has yet to officially receive his high school diploma, as South Kingstown graduation is tonight at the Ryan Center, Wu is already planning for life after college graduation.
“I’d like to go into something that’s science and technology related, I feel like I’d have a better chance of getting a job,” Wu said of why he chose to his major.
Upon graduating college, he would like to go into medical field, and look at statistics for biomedical engineering, such as what kind of medicines are being produced and which are most effective.
It comes as no surprise that Wu’s favorite high school class was biotechnology; McAlice’s favorites were anatomy and Spanish, also appropriate to her plan for college studies.
Wu participated in Model United Nations, the academic decathlon and Habitat for Community in high school.
“Not a lot of sports,” he said. But he hopes to make up for that in college and play ultimate Frisbee and rugby.
Wu is the second in his family to be named Salutatorian, as his brother was the Salutatorian of the SKHS Class of 2007.
“Going into high school, I felt like I wanted to match up with him,” Wu said of his brother.
Despite their academic, athletic and other successes, both Wu and McAlice are somewhat overwhelmed by the prospect of giving a speech in front of hundreds of people at graduation.
“I’m definitely nervous,” McAlice said. She added that her speech will touch on the concept of making choices and the SKHS Class of 2012.
Wu is also nervous, but warned of the content of his speech.
“I’m directing my speech to student body,” he said. So there might be some parts to the speech that [parents] might consider a little inappropriate, but I ran it by the administrators and they were fine with it.”
South Kingstown High School graduation is Friday, June 15 at 6 p.m., at URI’s Ryan Center.