Reflections from the Hale-Ray valedictorian and salutatorian

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
East Haddam - posted Thu., Jun. 23, 2011
Nathan Hale-Ray High School valedictorian Abigail Caron. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Nathan Hale-Ray High School valedictorian Abigail Caron. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

Challenge yourself. This is the basic philosophy that both Abigail Caron, the Nathan Hale-Ray High School Class of 2011 valedictorian, and class salutatorian Kayla Rutland agree is the secret to enjoying your time in high school while still achieving at the highest level.

“I work hard, and I like doing it. I really wanted to understand the material,” said Caron, adding that she took “challenging classes because they’re so much more fun.” So perhaps it’s not surprising that her favorite class at Hale-Ray was Advanced Placement biology.  With an interest in biochemistry, Caron is heading to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.

“Find something that you like to learn about and focus on that” was Caron’s advice to younger students. 

But science is far from being Caron’s only interest. She spent all four years of high school on the Hale-Ray fencing team, was captain of the school’s math team, played tenor sax in the jazz band, and was treasurer of both the Music Honor Society and the National Honor Society.

“And I like hiking, and I like fishing,” she added.

Rutland said that her goal “has always been to do well in school.”

“I’m motivated by challenging situations, or when people think I can’t do something. I’m going to do it to prove them wrong,” she said, adding, “You can’t do well just because your parents want you to or your teachers want you to. You have to really want it yourself.”

“I also get a lot of motivation from my dad, who passed in my freshman year. He made a lot of himself coming from nothing, and that’s always been a motivation for me. His success - how well he did and how hard-working he always was - that’s always in the back of my mind,” she said.

A three-year cross-country runner, Rutland captained the team this year. She is also the senior class president and is a member of Youth Helping Youth, a community service group that works in the school and around town. She also works about 25 hours a week, and spends “a lot of time in the gym and working out,” she said. This passion for fitness has led her to a major in nutritional science at the University of Connecticut, beginning in the fall.

One thing that defines the Class of 2011 to Rutland is their closeness. With only 91 seniors, “most of us have been together since kindergarten, so I’d say that everyone really knows everyone,” she said. While this can have pluses and minuses, “for us, it’s mostly positive, because we’re all friendly with each other, and everyone really gets along,” she said. “We’re a pretty close-knit bunch.”

This closeness has led to a kindness to each other, said Caron, which is one of the characteristics that she most likes about the Class of 2011. And this kindness stretches beyond the walls of Nathan Hale-Ray.

“I think there are a lot of us in this class that are really driven to make a difference. A lot of people seem to know what they are going to do, and how they plan to help the world,” said Caron.

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