Top Scholars: Silver and Chen Lead Balanced, Diverse Lives

Eliza Llewellyn, Web News Editor

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Every year, the titles of Valedictorian and Salutatorian are earned by two graduating seniors, and this year the honors were earned by Matt Silver ‘12 and Carolyn Chen ‘12 respectively. But these two seniors are more than just astronomical GPAs or straight A report cards. Beyond their “5.0” and slew of AP courses, both are unique and have participated in everything from competitive Scrabble to Westport Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

Matt Silver

His name may be Matt Silver, but this year’s Valedictorian goes for the gold. Silver’s competitive drive is evident in his pursuits throughout high school, from playing soccer and tennis in sophomore and junior year to participating in Moody’s Mega Math Challenge.

 “[Silver] has a personal drive to be the best,” said Sharon Silver, his mother.

Silver’s competitive drive is evident beyond the soccer field and the tennis court. His formidable skill in Scrabble is evident in his focused poise. As Silver carefully alphabetizes his tiles, his opponent can already taste defeat. Even when faced with a particularly difficult set, for example one with almost all vowels, Silver said he uses words like “eugeniae” to crush challengers. In middle school, Silver succeeded in qualifying for the National Championships in both 2007 and 2008. As the first competitor to win two consecutive titles, Silver earned an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Unfortunately though, due to Silver’s Scrabble prowess, William Jones, his tenth grade chemistry teacher, refused Silver the chance to beat him at Scrabble in exchange for an A in the course. “It’s like playing a computer,” Jones said of Silver’s talent. “But I would be more than willing to arm wrestle him for a grade.”

Silver has also participated in the annual Staples Spectacular Student Challenge since tenth grade. This year, the group also worked together on Moody’s Mega Math Challenge.

Silver’s strength in academics and his competitive nature fuel each other. He describes his motivation as mostly personal. “I’m a competitive person and I like the reward of succeeding,” he said.Sharonagreed. “If anything, I have to remind him to have fun,” she said.

Although he enjoys a challenge, Silver is not a cutthroat competitor but is dedicated to teamwork. Silver tutors outside of school, mentors other students in Scrabble, and supported and motivated his team members on the Staples Math Team. “Matt wanted to make sure they stuck with it,”Sharonsaid.

But Silver’s interests extend beyond academia. “Given his great successes, he’s very unassuming and down to earth,” said David Haswell ’12, a longtime friend. When not winning competitions, doing schoolwork, or helping others, Silver enjoys techno, electronic, and classic rock music, citing “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers as his favorite song. He also likes to read and spend time with friends and family.

Silver has allowed himself to relax as a second semester senior. “I’ve lightened up,” Silver said. According to Silver, he has more time for simple pleasures, like talking to friends on Facebook.

Silver plans to continue tutoring over the summer. He will attendPrincetonnext year and plans to study engineering. Although he will transform from a Wrecker to a Tiger, Silver is sure to be successful.

 Carolyn Chen

Despite her 4.57 GPA, Carolyn Chen didn’t expect to be Salutatorian.

“It just happened,” Chen said. “I never compared grades with friends or even knew where I stood.”

Chen kept a low profile, keeping grades private. “I didn’t put myself out there as a competitive overachiever,” she said.  Even Jennifer Chen, Carolyn’s mother, saw the title as a surprise. “I know she always tries, so I don’t worry about what her grades are,” Jennifer said.

This year’s salutatorian “never brags, so it’s hard to get a sense of just how smart she really is,” said JoJo Bryer ‘12, a friend of Chen’s. “I brag about her more than she does.”

Despite her modesty, Chen’s achievements are worth boasting about. Chen is an Emergency Medical Technician with the Westport EMS throughout the year and during the summer. Handling emergencies from strokes to myocardial infarctions, she is truly a lifesaver. However, Chen is quick to acknowledge her team members.  “I can’t say I’ve ever saved anyone’s life by myself,” she said. “It’s always a team at EMS.”

Chen’s emphasis on teamwork is also evident in her participation as a first violinist in the New York Youth Symphony. Every musician, from those in the back of the orchestra to the principle players, must exert tremendous energy. “The orchestra’s as good as the worst player,” Chen said.  Chen has played violin since she was three years old.

 Chen is also involved in art. A favorite class is drawing, and her favorite subject the face, with its subtle expressions and nuances.  “A crease near the eyes or a slight adjustment to the lips can make a huge difference,” Chen said. She won a Scholastic Gold Medal for an oil pastel drawing, a Lyme Art Award for drawing, and a Toquet Hall art contest for an oil painting.                

Chen plans to attend Princeton. The school appeals to her sense of the power of a team. “Most [students atPrinceton] work together on problem sets or discuss essay topics openly,” Chen said. “They completely disprove the stereotypes that other people have warned me about; Princetonis certainly not taken over by cut-throat, arrogant, preppy people.” Clearly, there is a place at this Ivy for the hardworking, modest Chen, who plans to study either computer science or mechanical engineering.

Chen dreams of being an astronaut, but unfortunately, she is a quarter inch short of the 5-foot-2 height requirement. Still, with such a strong background in academics, music, art, and medical know-how, she is sure to have many opportunities ahead.

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