Meet the top students at BCHS: Yan Zhu, Stephen Pittman sit at the top of their class

Yan Zhu, right, and Stephen Pittman, left, were named Bristol Central High School’s 2019 valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

Yan Zhu and Stephen Pittman were named Bristol Central High School’s 2019 valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Zhu spent her time at BCHS as a member of the student council, where she served as the secretary during her senior year. She took part in the math club, Excel Club, and InterAct Club. During her junior year she was inducted into the National Honor Society. And, for her first three years, she was a member of the tennis team.

In the fall, she will be headed to the University of Connecticut where she plans to major in biology, with the hopes of becoming a pediatrician.

“In school, I always really enjoyed sciences but sophomore year when we were required to take biology,” said Zhu, “at first I was iffy about it, but then when I started taking it, I really enjoyed all the classes, I really enjoy learning about cells, genetics, DNA, just all of the stuff, it just really interested me.”

She said that she also really likes small children, and while she considered becoming a teacher, the idea of getting to take care of children from the time they are born until they’re about 18 years old helped her solidify her decision.

Zhu has volunteered at Bristol Hospital for the past three years, in order to get a better understanding of the medical field.

The valedictorian recalled one story of a woman who, unlike most patients, asked her to come sit while she recounted stories of her life and family, eventually sharing cookies with Zhu and one of Zhu’s friends. She explained typically, patients can feel kind of annoyed when volunteers take too much time in their rooms. But that woman was nice so, Zhu said, she still remembers that day.

Of her time at Central, Zhu said she was really happy “because all of the teachers are very caring.” Principal Peter Wininger is “super nice, he’s always on top of everything, and if you pass him [in the hallways] he’ll say ‘hi.’”

As she is graduating the top of her class, Zhu offered some advice to high schoolers everywhere: you have to start really strong your freshman year, as that grade point average is the foundation to future success, do your homework, study for tests, ask teachers for advice, and also enjoy your time by taking part in extra-curricular activities with your friends.

While at Central, Pittman ran cross country for four years, did three years of track, and joined the tennis team his senior year. He considered himself the “de facto” captain of the math team, of which he’s been a member for four years and competed in all of the meets, except two his freshman year. He played the tuba in the school band for four years, after playing the trumpet during elementary and middle school. He was a member of the InterAct Club, was inducted into the National Honor Society his junior year, and was a member of the chess club, which he said he did “just for fun.”

And while he was skilled in school, he most enjoyed his time outside of school, spent studying topics such as the ancient world, fencing, ancient archery and bow crafting.

In the fall he will attend the College of the Holy Cross, where he will study the classics, such as Greek and Latin, and the history of the ancient Mediterranean. After completing his undergraduate degree in the classics, he hopes to study the near east – such as Iran, Ancient Babylon and Assyria – for his postgraduate education. But, he said, he’s also very interested in religion, philosophy, all sorts of history, and math.

“I don’t mean to be pompous but I think I’ll be mourned on the math team as the king of geometry. I think I’ll really miss math team and I hope they’ll miss me too,” said Pittman with a laugh.

Bristol Central High School graduation will be held on Friday, June 14, beginning at 7 p.m., at the school, 480 Wolcott St., Bristol.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.