NORTH KINGSTOWN – While Mary Beth Clarke said she was very surprised to be named this year’s valedictorian of North Kingstown High School, it was undeniably the result of dedication, prioritizing and focus.
“It is a wonderful feeling,” Clarke said over email last week. “It really shows that these 13 years of hard work and dedication have paid off. All of those nights I chose to study instead of going out with friends, the clarifying questions I asked teachers so I would completely understand something, the extra time I spent doing my homework so it would be done right, all have finally paid off.”
Clarke, who will be attending Johnson and Wales University next year to study marketing, mathematics and Spanish, went on to say that being named valedictorian, on top of getting ready to graduate this weekend, was both “amazing” and “surreal.”
“I can’t believe that I will be walking across the stage to receive a diploma in just a few days. It really doesn’t feel like it is almost my turn,” she said. “Graduation is an exciting time and I am ecstatic waiting for it. My experience at North Kingstown High School was truly incredible. I am so fortunate to have gone there.”
“All of the teachers are so dedicated and really want the best for their students. As a student, you have access to so many opportunities, and I am grateful to have participated in as much as I could,” she continued.
Some highlights during Clarke’s time at the high school include the DECA Business Club, classes like band, calculus, statistics and U.S. history, and her senior project and history day project.
“All of my DECA memories were definitely some of my favorites. This year I was President of the DECA Business Club at North Kingstown,” she said, adding, “The club competed in a DECA competition and many members qualified to go to nationals.”
In fact, 20 members, including Clarke, qualified for nationals, sending them to Orlando, Florida for the national competition.
“This experience was definitely one of my favorite memories from my time at North Kingstown High School,” she said. “I made so many new friends within the club, and it was awesome to be able to network with other students and professionals at the conference.”
And having played the flute for eight years, Clarke said that band class had given her an opportunity to do something that she has loved for nearly half of her life.
“Some of my other favorite memories occurred during band class. Band was always a non-stressful class that allowed me to do something that I love, which is to make music,” she said, adding that, during her sophomore year, the school’s band participated in a competition in Philadelphia.
“This was a great bonding experience for everyone, but nothing replaces hearing ‘North Kingstown High School’ during the awards dinner for first place,” she said.
She explained that turning to the flute also served as a way for her to relax and de-stress, something that she said was very important to her, especially when pressures are mounting.
“Not only is it something I love, but playing flute is my escape,” she said. “It really helps me de-stress and relax. I am so lucky to have my flute and music to turn to when I am especially under pressure.”
Clarke also said that, for her history day project, she researched Great Depression-era entertainment, with a focus on Shirley Temple; and for her senior project, she hosted an event where she taught members of the community how to plan a trip to Walt Disney World as a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish–both of which left lasting impressions.
But now that her storied high school education is coming to an end, Clarke said she was looking to her future at Johnson and Wales and beyond–a future that she hopes will combine her passions and interests.
“Currently, I would like to be a marketing analyst, which combines both my love of business and my love of mathematics. I am so excited to be able to do what I love,” she said. “In college, I hope to study abroad, possibly participate in the Disney College Program, and interning. There are going to be so many opportunities at my fingertips and I am prepared to take advantage of as many as I can.”
However, Clarke said, she would never forget all those who helped her get to where she is and where she was going.
“Thank you to everyone who played a part in my educational career. You all contributed one way or another to my success, and I am grateful for everything you have done for me. Of course, thank you to my parents and my family,” she said.
“I love you all; you are my rock and my support system,” she continued. “I couldn’t have done it without you. Good luck to all of my fellow graduates, I cannot wait to witness the amazing things you will accomplish in the future.”