Aggor named WWHS class of '22 salutatorian, will continue education at Yale

Ethan Aggor

WEST WARWICK — As he considers what’s to come, Ethan Aggor is sure of at least one thing: his time at Yale University will be “the next best four years” of his life.

“You can really group life into chapters,” Aggor said in a recent phone interview. “This is the end of one chapter, and the beginning of a new chapter.”

To Aggor, salutatorian of the West Warwick High School class of 2022, graduation feels like a major accomplishment. 

“It feels like I ran a really long time, and I’ve finally reached the finish line,” he said. “And it doesn’t matter what place I’m in, it just matters that I finished because of how long that race was.”

Aggor’s time in the West Warwick Public Schools began at Horgan Elementary when he was in the second grade. While at the high school, he was involved in a long list of activities, from student government, to National Honor Society, to cross-country — but it’s his participation in the jazz band that’s been especially meaningful.

Though taken as a class, jazz band never felt like school to Aggor.

“I think that that’s really important,” he said. “It allows for different kinds of connections with the other students there, and these connections, in my opinion, were the strongest.”

Aggor was introduced as an eighth grader to the band teacher, Matt Livesey, and was invited to play with the high school’s jazz band.

“It got to the point where I was so excited to come up that I actually started skipping my middle school rehearsals to go to the high school ones, because I liked jazz band so much,” he recalled. 

Aggor, who’s played trombone since the fifth grade and recently started learning the saxophone, said he hopes to continue playing jazz while in college. For Aggor, who also played in a jazz combo with some friends while in high school, the genre is special. 

“It’s a conversation among the musicians,” he said of jazz, adding that a lick first played in a song decades ago might be heard in another song, by another musician, generations later. “When I hear one jazz song, it might remind me of tens of other jazz songs… listening to jazz incites listening to more jazz.”

It’s his passion for jazz music that Aggor thinks may have secured his place at Yale University. 

“They saw that I was a very passionate person,” said Aggor, who wrote about jazz in his admissions essay.

The decision to attend Yale was “a very easy” one to make, Aggor said. 

Having applied to some 16 different colleges, Aggor received a likely letter — a message sent to select students before an official admissions decision — from Yale over a month in advance, and from there was connected with an admissions officer and current students.

Aggor was impressed by Yale’s communications, he said, and during an admissions event at the campus felt an instant connection to the Ivy League school. 

“[I felt] like, these are the people that are so similar to me in the way that they think, in terms of learning,” he said. “They view learning as a gift and something that should be cherished.”

Aggor plans to major in computer science, and is leaning toward a major that marries that with mathematics. His interest in computer science is fairly recent, sparked during his time stuck at home during the pandemic.

Having watched as coronavirus restrictions affected many jobs in a negative way, Aggor began to explore computer programming as a field he may want to pursue. 

“I always told myself I’m going to get a job where I will always be learning,” he said, “and this is that job.”

As he prepares to leave West Warwick, Aggor said he’ll miss the people who have helped shape him.

“There are some teachers that do more than just teach their subject — they also, for me, taught things about life,” he said. “I quite honestly do take much of their advice to heart.”

Aside from Livesey, who helped stoke his passion for music, Aggor was especially influenced by his eighth-grade English and science teachers, Andrew Larson and Chloe Robitaille.

“They got me out of this really bad cycle of studying,” said Aggor, who as a middle schooler had often sacrificed sleep to study. “Now, I have a much healthier view of how to tackle learning.”

But Aggor’s biggest teacher, he said, has always been his dad.

“He’s so incredibly knowledgeable,” he said of his dad, Kwasi Aggor. “I know I can always go to him for advice.” 

A couple of weeks ago, Aggor paid a visit to Robitaille’s classroom. After chatting for a bit, she asked the soon-to-be graduate if he had any words of wisdom for her students.

His advice to them? Read.

Aggor himself didn’t really start reading for pleasure until his senior year of high school. Now, he can’t recommend reading enough.

“Reading is an amazing pastime,” he said. “It’s the basis of learning, it’s the basis of imagination and creativity. So, if there’s any advice that I could give, it would be to read. Read things that you love reading, read informational books, nonfiction, fiction — just read anything.”

It’s also important, he added, that students enjoy themselves — whether in the classroom, or on the athletic field, or while participating in any of the various activities offered at the high school. 

“Just be in the moment and appreciate it, because you’ll look back and realize: wow, these are core memories of my life, and I didn’t realize that they were at the time,” he said.

And if someone is dedicating their time to something, he continued, then that person should be happy doing it. 

“And if you’re not happy doing it, consider moving on to something else,” he said. “Ultimately, this is your life. If happiness isn’t present in the things that you do, reevaluate your pastimes and hobbies. Happiness, in my opinion, should be one of the ultimate goals in life.”

kgravelle@ricentral.com

 

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