Aced It: Reaching the Top

Photos by Bailey Ethier and Claire Lewin, Graphic by Katie Settos

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Madeline Seidman

Under the hot Black Box lights, Madeline Seidman ’13 laments ruination and commits suicide. A  change of costumes and seasons, she is a frock-clad dilettante and delivers punch lines. Seidman is a versatile actress, and she plays diverse roles even off the stage. Beyond her commitment to acting, singing and extracurriculars, Seidman is the valedictorian of the class of 2013.

Seidman is far from the stereotype of a grade-groveler who, when not studying, is logging into Home Access or recalculating an updated GPA on a TI-84 Plus.

“You should never give up what you’re interested in,” Seidman said. Although Seidman was encouraged to give up theater and chorus classes to take more APs, she resisted. “You have to take what you love,” she said.

Seidman’s passions include Players, Orphenians, Peer Advisors, and costume design. This involvement is no insignificant load. Seidman estimates that a typical week consists of 20 hours of outside activities.

“Many people often have to choose between having heavy academics and being a huge part of Players,” said Grace McDavid-Seidner ’13, a fellow actor and friend. “Maddy has always taken many pretty intense classes while never decreasing her dedication and involvement in Players shows.”

Throughout her Staples career Seidman has participated in 18 plays and musicals. Even second semester her senior year, Seidman played a leading role in You Can’t Take it With You. “I haven’t slacked off too much,” Seidman said.

Seidman often takes on “character roles” of funny or strange personalities, fitting given her appreciation of comedy. However, the multifaceted Seidman has also played serious roles, including the character who committed suicide.

Seidman can stay involved in the arts next year at Williams. “It’s very strong academically,” Seidman said. “It’s also very centered on the arts.”

Seidman’s comedic gifts come through in the classroom. In AP Chemistry, she is renowned for her authentic accents, rattling off the KSP of silver chromate in a Czechoslovakian or Cockney accent, according to chemistry teacher William Jones.

It’s easy to forget that Seidman balances schoolwork by day with acting and other activities after the dismissal bell sounds.

“When I asked [Seidman] how she handled both Players and schoolwork, she said to me, ‘You just have to keep going until all the work is done,’” said Isabel Perry ’15.

“She made everything look so easy,” added Jones.

Seidman isn’t loud or outspoken about either her activities or her GPA and is often described as humble. “When I found out [that she was valedictorian], I didn’t believe it at first,” Perry said. “Not because she isn’t qualified, but because she said it so casually. That’s Maddie– she’s so great and talented, but she’s not conceited or arrogant.”

Jones agreed. “She’s deceptively awesome. It’s a subtle, classy awesome.”

Robert DeLuca

It all began in a freshman year biology class. Robert DeLuca was learning about cell respiration, and suddenly something clicked. He became determined to learn as much as he possibly could about how the body made energy.

“That’s the first moment that stands out like a light,” said DeLuca.“The first time I hurtled at learning like something shiny and beautiful.”

In schools today, especially in Westport, where college is almost guaranteed and Ivy Leagues are plastered on too many Facebook profiles to count, a debate arises: are students learning for grades, or are they learning to learn?

With this year’s salutatorian, DeLuca, there seems to be no question.

“He is a student whom a teacher gets to meet only a few times in her career.” said Enia Noonan, DeLuca’s Italian teacher,

“The kid wants to know as much about everything as he possibly can. It’s equally inspiring and unnerving,” Ryan Greenberg ’13 said.

DeLuca himself attributes his success to his passion for academics.

“I think for me, a lot of it was just that I really enjoyed school a lot of the time,” said DeLuca. Whether it be singing in Italian in the shower, solving complicated math problems off the internet, or just reading as much and as often as possible, DeLuca is motivated inside and outside of school.

DeLuca’s friend Katie Hickson ’13 sees the same motivation in DeLuca. “He seems like the kind of guy who goes home and reads Wikipedia articles about scientific theories for fun,” Hickson said.

DeLuca’s motivation could seem implausible to some. However, his passionate investment in his classes is enriched by an unfailing dedication to his school work that is clear to students and teachers alike.

“He is one of the most hard-working students I have ever met,” said Noonan, “He never slowed down or failed to turn in a homework assignment for four years.”

Yet DeLuca wasn’t driven only by academics throughout high school. He participated in the extracurriculars he was passionate about­—boys water polo, JuniorState of America (JSA), and a few flings with boys track and coed water polo.

“It was really things I had an interest about, and then the people sealed the deal,” said DeLuca.

And  after spending time with the people in his extracurriculars, DeLuca even maintained one of the things too many academically challenged students seem to lose touch with: a social life. To his friends he isn’t simply academically motivated—he is compassionate, funny, kind, jacked, and incredibly energetic.

“His face lights up like Mexican fireworks each time he sees you, making you feel more important than you actually are.” said Greenberg.

DeLuca always exceeds expectations. However, it is clear that he owes his success as salutatorian to his love of learning.

“Learning is a pastime for him; it truly is his passion,” said Noonan.

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