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When North Branford High School (NBHS) Class of 2014 Valedictorian Kevin Sullivan gives his commencement speech June 23, it won't take the audience long to ascertain this guy is charming, enigmatic, and gifted (no pressure, Kevin).
Those traits may serve Kevin very well in the future, when his skills as leader, communicator, and academic talent could combine into a long-term goal of serving up information to the masses, face to face.
"I do love writing and I want to go into political science or something like that, and I've also thought about communications," says Kevin. "Combining all those sort of things into something like being a newscaster-someone you can look at their face and recognize-that's like a goal of my life, well into the future."
As for the immediate future, Kevin will spend the next four years with Yale University Class of 2018.
Kevin's leap from public school to Ivy League marks the first time in several years an NBHS student has been accepted to Yale. He's also the only member of his class headed off to an Ivy. But this North Branford boy doesn't intend to be a small fish in a sea of valedictorians.
"I feel our school is a high-achieving school and I'll be able to stand out, even in a class of valedictorians. I don't want to be in the middle," says Kevin. "Hopefully, I'll be able to continue on trying my hardest and doing my best."
As the top student in his class, Kevin's certainly stood out at NBHS in many areas. In addition to earning numerous academic accolades (among them the Rotary Club Scholarship Award, President's Award for Educational Excellence, Connecticut Governor's Scholar Award, North Branford Superintendent's Award, National Merit Scholarship Commended Student, AP Scholar Award, Yale Club Book Award, Gettysburg Book Award, NBHS English Department Book Award, and CAPT Scholar Award), Kevin's president of Student Council, NBHS Yearbook Editor, Kaleidoscope Literary Magazine's editor-in-chief, High School Bowl co-captain, Current Events Club co-president, Arts Club vice-president, and captain of the fencing team. He's also a member of the Drama Club, InterAct Club, National Honor Society, and served as a Board of Education student representative.
Although he has always challenged himself with high-level classes (this year, AP calculus, AP English and AP Spanish), Kevin says it's always been important to him to be an active member of his NBHS community, as well.
"I wanted to try to make as a big an impact on the school as I could," he says. "I really try to put 100 percent into everything I do. I try to give my all."
For underclassmen aspiring to do the same, Kevin says "a lot of it is about budgeting time and then ranking things on a priority list. If you have several things to do in one week, focus on one thing at a time, get it done, do it well, and then move on to the next thing. Don't jumble yourself up between a bunch of things. And if someone thinks they have a shot at any high ranking in the class, they should absolutely just go right for it. There's no reason to hesitate. You only get one chance at high school and doing well in it."
Kevin recalls when he first decided to go after becoming valedictorian.
"When I was a freshman in English honors, our teacher told us someone in this room is going to be valedictorian. And I said to myself, 'I really, really hope that's me.'"
Kevin credits NBHS teachers and North Branford Public Schools (which he's attended since kindergarten) for helping achieve that success.
"The teachers really shine at this school. They do such a great job teaching you the information, and also encouraging you to figure it out by yourself as well. I'm in denial right now about leaving the school-I just love it. If anything, the teachers and faculty I'll miss the most, because all of them have had such an impact on me and how I'm able to go to school at Yale. They're the reason why I am who I am today," he says, adding, "And I really do chalk it up to the school system a lot, and the fact that they offer a lot, and that I was able to utilize those things and still maintain myself as a student and participate in extra-curricular activities."
Kevin also thanks his family for their support, including his brother and sister (both at University of Vermont) and, of course, his parents.
"They've been there constantly. They have been so supportive, at every single event, every single awards ceremony, all my matches for fencing, all my performances for drama-even when I was backstage, even if I was there for two seconds getting something off stage, they were there-and they're going to continue to be there. I'm so grateful to have that support."
As for that speech next Monday, Kevin wants to help his peers celebrate their many NBHS accomplishments.
"I really want to make it a speech that speaks to the class and how much effort we put into high school," he says. "A lot of times, people talk about the future, but I want to celebrate what we've done already, like the [Independent Projects] we did. People did really incredible things. I want to speak to that and recognize them for their skill, and that those skills are going to continue to grow in the future. I really just want say the class did a great job, and will continue to do so."
The North Branford High School Class of 2014 graduates Monday, June 23 at 6:30 p.m. on the school field. Branford High School (BHS) Class of 2014 graduates Thursday, June 19 at 6 p.m. on the Branford Green. BHS will announce its valedictorian on graduation night and The Sound hopes to profile the recipient in a future Person of the Week article.