On June 19, Branford High School (BHS) Class of 2014 valedictorian David Eaton got a standing ovation from his classmates, but he didn't get to give a speech.
By his own description, David was once very shy. But today, the Yale-bound scholar says he definitely would have been happy to give a speech on graduation day. However, in Branford, having the valedictorian speak to his or her graduating class is not in the commencement ceremony protocol. Instead, the top academic achiever in the class is announced publicly for the first time on graduation night and called to the podium to receive his or her award.
"If I were to give a speech at graduation as valedictorian, I would congratulate my class for all their accomplishments throughout high school and encourage them to continue working diligently to reach their goals, because graduation is only the beginning," David tells The Sound, adding, "An important quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson states: 'Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.' I challenge my classmates to leave a trail that others would be proud to follow."
Also named Faculty Key Award winner on commencement night, David was BHS National Honor Society president and forged a remarkable trail of academic achievement during his four years at the school. He received the Yale Book Award, was named a semi-finalist Governor's Scholar, received the President's Academic Excellence Award, the BHS Phillip A. Delise Award, the Yale Club of New Haven Scholarship Award and Rensselaer Book Award, among other honors.
A BHS Science National Honor Society member, David spent last summer with the Yale Discovery to Cure Internship Program, working in Dr. Karl Insogna's endocrinology lab researching osteocytes. David's love for science was fostered during his years with Branford Public Schools and especially at BHS in Advanced Placement (AP) classes.
"Branford High School has a lot of top classes, and the AP program is really good. I really enjoyed AP chem and AP biology," says David, who plans to major in biology as a Yale pre-med student. He wants to become a medical doctor.
In addition to his academic work at BHS, David was an officer with BHS Model Congress and played BHS varsity soccer. He also thoroughly enjoyed coaching youngsters in Little Hornets Soccer Camp.
When David was an elementary-aged student, "I really didn't talk very much," he says. "I was very shy. I finally got over it in middle school and I'm sure my teachers there thought I talked too much!"
As a student, "I spent a lot of time with my schoolwork," says David. "It was a lot of dedication, especially when you're doing other things like playing soccer. You really have to dedicate yourself and your time."
David is the only BHS Class of 2014 member accepted to Yale, which was his first choice among the universities to which he applied. He's also the first valedictorian in his family and the first family member to attend an Ivy League school.
"I would like to thank my family for supporting me over the years and extend my gratitude to all the administrators and teachers who helped me get to where I am today," he says. "It's hard to believe how much I've grown. It's hard to believe it's our time to graduate and head into the future."
For those high school students who will be working hard to make their academic mark in the coming years, David advises them not to feel intimidated by the challenges that lie ahead.
"High school was at first an intimidating place, but it became, for me, a place of growth and a place to share ideas, passions, and strengths," he says. "Graduation was the stepping stone from one stage in life to the next."