By SHERIDAN ROY
Plainville High School’s Class of 2019 top two students are just about ready to leave their time in Plainville schools behind and venture off to higher education. Valedictorian Rachel Parsons and salutatorian Daniel Szymula look forward to making an impression at the University of Connecticut in the fall.
Getting to where they are now was no easy feat. Szymula and Parsons both sacrificed much of their free time in order to stay one step ahead of the rest.
“It’s a lot of just not listening to yourself when you don’t want to do things,” said Szymula. “You have to just make yourself do it anyways. If you can work through that, you can accomplish a lot more than you think.”
The salutatorian called on a message his track coach used often to motivate runners to keep on going.
“Your body’s always going to take the safe route when you’re running, and your lungs are burning and your legs are tired. Your body is going to tell you to stop,” said Szymula. “It can be the same thing in school. It can get to be a lot, and it’s overwhelming. There’s times you want to take it easy and drop something but you know it’s not worth it.”
Parsons said it takes more than getting straight “A”s to become the class valedictorian.
“People can have the same types of grades but in the easier classes, and it effects your grade point average differently,” she said. “I mostly took harder classes.”
For Parsons, learning was the “easy” part. Balancing extracurricular activities became a challenge for her.
“I feel like the classes themselves were less of a challenge than all of the extra stuff that just comes with being in high school,” said Parsons. “Being involved with things outside of the classroom was more difficult to manage than the actual learning inside of school.”
On top of being a student at the top of her class, Parsons is an officer in the national honor society, French national honor society, and the science national honor society. She is the president of the school’s interact club and an officer in the student government. She also plays soccer, participates in the concert band and jazz band, and maintains a part time job at Apple Rehabilitation.
Szymula is an officer in the national honor society, science national honor society and Italian national honor society. He is the vice president of the French-Italian club and is a member of the ski club. He runs on the track and cross country teams, plays in the school band and jazz band, and plays in the town’s wind ensemble. He is a member of the State Student Advisory Council on Education (SSACE) and maintains a part time job at the Plainville Public Library.
Parsons looks forward to major-ing in engineering at UConn.
“I figured out that I wanted to go that route just based on the types of classes I was taking,” she said. “I think I’ve taken all of the math classes that they offer here, so I knew I wanted to do something with it.”
Szymula was heading down the same path as Parsons up until recently when he had a change of heart. Now he is going to school for music education.
“Music has kind of always been my thing. It’s the one thing I can do for hours on end and not get bored of it,” he said. He has played trumpet in the school band since fifth grade. “I think I like math as much as Rachel does but I know I would get sick of it. I figured I’d be happier in the long run.”
Both Parsons and Szymula said their biggest influence in their education was their band teacher, Dominic Talotta. They have been learning with him since eighth grade.
“He’s one of those teachers who is easier to see as a friend. He’s taught me a lot outside of just music,” said Szymula. “He’s a role model.”
Parsons said Talotta was someone she could approach to get a “break” from school, and he was always accountable to give impartial advice on other classes students took.
As the valedictorian and salutatorian of the class of 2019 wrap up their time in Plainville schools, they offered peers a word of advice.
“Make sure you enjoy what you’re doing. Don’t just do all of these things because it looks good,” said Parsons. “You need to know your reasons for doing things.”
Szymula reminded peers to thank the people in life who offer a helping hand.
Parsons, Szymula and the rest of the class of 2019 will officially say goodbye to PHS during graduation ceremonies on June 18.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.