By NICOLE JACQUES
Bristol Eastern’s top students share more than just a similar grade point average—they share a passion for math and science that has persisted throughout their high school years and will continue to be a part of their lives in their future careers.
Caroline Boyce, valedictorian, and Emma Dinh, salutatorian, are the highest-achieving academic students in Bristol Eastern’s class of 2014.
After four years of rigorous classes and extracurricular activities, both students say it is a relief to finally earn the title.
“I didn’t know if it was going to happen, but it did,” said Boyce.
Dinh added that earning the title of top of the class was a huge honor for both students.
“It feels amazing to know that all of your hard work paid off,” said Dinh, a part-time student at Bristol Eastern and part-time student at the Greater Hartford Academy of Math and Science (GHAMS) magnet school.
This coming fall, Boyce will attend Harvard University to pursue a degree in a math field, with particular interest in a program that combines applied mathematics with music. Dinh will enroll at Yale University as a biomedical engineering major, with interest in also potentially pursuing studies in the fields of applied mathematics, chemistry, statistics, and computer science.
Both students trace their career interests back to experiences they had during their time at Bristol Eastern.
Boyce, a drum major of Bristol Eastern’s marching band, said her involvement with music during her high school years occupied a lot of her time and piqued her interest in including music as part of her studies in college. Adding that calculus is her favorite class, Boyce said a program involving music and math seemed like a good fit.
“I’ve always been a math person,” said Boyce, citing Sara Jones, coordinator of the Bristol Eastern math department, as a source of help and encouragement.
“She’s the whole reason I got into higher math,” said Boyce, also naming her calculus teacher William Kelly and physics teacher David Bittel as additional sources of support.
Dinh also said staff members at Bristol Eastern were a source of encouragement throughout high school, calling her guidance counselor Liz Lefrancois a “friend” and advisor.
“I couldn’t have made it through the college process without her,” said Dinh of Lefrancois.
Dinh also credited her AP Language and Composition teacher Rebecca McElwee with instilling in her an interest in writing, which Dinh pursued as editor of Bristol Eastern’s literary magazine.
Throughout their time at Eastern, Boyce and Dinh have been involved in the National Honor Society (Boyce serving as chapter president), science honor society, and math team together at Bristol Eastern, while also taking a number of Advanced Placement (AP) and college courses both in the classroom and through independent studies. In addition, Boyce served as a member of the cross-country team and math honor society.
Though many of these groups have inspired their college and career interests, Boyce and Dinh said their high school years also prepared them with lifelong leadership skills.
Both Boyce and Dinh were participants in a program called CRIDLA, run through the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC). The program involves guiding high school students in planning, organizing, and implementing a service project engaging inner-city Hartford youth.
Dinh, whose project involved creating a field day for young Hartford students, said the months of the planning and opportunities to learn to make decisions alongside other strong-willed high school leaders was a “worthwhile experience.”
Boyce, who participated in the program this year and whose service project involved bringing a group of students on a nature hike, said it provided a new perspective.
“Getting to work with [inner-city] kids makes you appreciate what we have more,” said Boyce.
Having grown from their experiences at Bristol Eastern, Boyce and Dinh said they are excited to graduate and face the new wealth of opportunities that college will bring.
“[Graduating] feels surreal and strange in a way,” said Dinh, “[but] I’m really excited for the next chapter of my life.”
And while Boyce prepares to address her peers through a speech at gradation, she leaves some advice for underclassmen wishing to achieve academic success.
“Anybody can do it, you just have to try and put your mind to it,” said Boyce.
Dinh agreed, adding seeking support from friends, family, and teachers is an important part of success.
“Be inspired by the people around you,” said Dinh.
Bristol Eastern’s graduation ceremony will be held on the Bristol Eastern football field at 632 King Street on June 19.