EAST PROVIDENCE — They are the top three students academically in the graduating Class of 2013 at East Providence High School and they embody everything that is good about the education system in the city.
Friday night, June 14, Isabel Newton, Nicole Strik and Tony Hu will lead their fellow graduates through commencement.
All three attended East Providence schools throughout, Ms. Newton and Ms. Strik having gone to Myron Francis Elementary and Martin Middle previously; Mr. Hu having gone to Silver Spring Elementary and Martin. Each also claims being a member of the National Honor Society among their academic credentials.
Ms. Newton, bound for Brown University in the fall, is the valedictorian. She completed her four years at EPHS as a straight-A student through every quarter, semester and cumulatively. Ms. Newton plans on majoring in Engineering at the East Side of Providence Ivy League school.
Ms. Strik, headed to Boston College in September, is the salutatorian in the Class of ’13. Her only grades below an A, “high Bs” she explained wryly, came in an Advanced Placement (AP) English course. Ms. Strik plans to study Psychology on Chestnut Hill.
Mr. Hu, who will also attend Boston College in the fall, is the avedictorian. Also like Ms. Strik, with whom he shares the denotation, his only grade below an A in his high school career came in an English class. Mr. Hu, noting a bit of wit, explained that despite having been born in the United States, Chinese was the language spoken in his home as a youngster and that was the reason for his “B” grades. He intends to study Biology/Pre-Med at B.C.
“I’ve watched these three kids grow up since they were in the sixth grade. They’re dedicated to their studies and they’re excellent representatives of their class,” said EPHS Assistant Principal Shani Wallace, who held the same position at Martin Middle School when Ms. Newton, Ms. Strik and Mr. Hu went there.
“They respect themselves, their classmates and the faculty. They’re humble, hard-working kids. They’re awesome,” Ms. Wallace continued. “They’re great people who represent everything that is good about East Providence High School and what this community is all about. They’re just great kids who have done great things here and will continue to do so in the future.”
Where they’re lives are headed is to be determined. How each of the top three reached their academic status is established, and each took differing paths.
For Ms. Newton, who said being the No. 1 ranked student in the class was never a goal, said she took all she could from her classes every day.
“I wouldn’t say that I don’t study hard, but I remember my dad telling me that the most important thing was to show up and pay attention in school. I’ve tried to make the most out of the six hours I’m here each day,” Ms. Newton added.
Ms. Strik said she strove to be one of the elite students in her class, and hit the books with determination.
“For me, I had to really work at it. I’m a pretty schedule-oriented person. I like structure. I would say I’m disciplined. I kind of worked towards this my whole career,” she said.
An acknowledged procrastinator, Mr. Hu said while he wanted to achieve, he likely didn’t put everything he could into his scholastic pursuits. He admits that must change in college.
“I definitely didn’t study as much as I probably should have here,” he conceded. “It hasn’t hurt me yet, but I know I have to change my habits as I advance academically.”
What it means
Though mirroring each other in academic status, the accolades they’ve achieved, as one might expect, hold different meanings for the students.
“It means a lot because it’s nice to be recognized for what we accomplished. But at the same time, everyone pretty much goes through the same in high school. But I don’t think we’re any better than the other graduating seniors just because we have a higher GPA,” said Ms. Newton.
“When I told my friends and family, they all said how proud they were of mean and that I deserved it because they know how hard I worked,” said Ms. Strik.
“It means I have to work harder. I was top three here. I did well enough, but I have to work harder,” said Mr. Hu.
Work hard, play harder
While excelling in the classroom, both Ms. Newton and Ms. Strik, in addition, have had quite successful athletic careers at EPHS. Both said being on their respective fields of play helped them academically.
Ms. Strik, also a four-year member of her class committee as treasurer, was a three-sport, 12-semester athlete. She was a member of the Townies’ volleyball, swim and softball teams. Ms. Newton, the Student Council secretary her senior year as well as a member of the Townie Volunteer Corp and Townie Athletic Board, also played volleyball and swam and played basketball.
“It always threw me off on days when I didn’t have practice or a game. I like the regime,” Ms. Strik said. “And starting volleyball my freshman year was the best decision I ever made. (EPHS head coach Alex) Butler pushed and pushed us. What he taught us definitely translated into the classroom,” Ms. Strik said.
Of playing volleyball and the influence of Coach Butler, a Physical Education teacher in the E.P. system, Ms. Newton added, “I second that.”
Ms. Newton, Ms. Strik and Mr. Hu will leave East Providence High School behind Friday night, but each acknowledged a little piece of the place will remain with them forever.
“To me everything is what you make of it, and I tried to make the most out of everyday I was here. High school will definitely be something good for me to remember in the future,” said Ms. Strik.
Added Ms. Newton, “Besides the academics, I really appreciate this place. I appreciate all the kids, the teachers. I would not have chosen to be at any other high school. The people have been fantastic. It’s been a great four years.”