By JEN CARDINES
Amidst the 490 seniors in the Southington High School Class of 2017, three took their place at the head of the class. Nickolina Doran (valedictorian), Nathan Simard (salutatorian), and Laura Furtak (essayist) come from different backgrounds and social circles, but they all shared a similar passion during their tenure at SHS.
All three Southington scholars hope for a career in the sciences in one way or another.
Doran, who is pursuing a double-major in biomedical engineering and Spanish at Yale University this fall, said she was always drawn to the math and science track. In addition to her studies at SHS, she travels to Hartford for a portion of her day as a Greater Hartford Academy of Math and Science student.
“Both of my parents were math teachers,” she said. “They were always able to help me with it, so it’s something that I grew to love.”
Doran is no stranger to extra-curricular activities. A member of the SHS National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society, Doran can also be found on the lacrosse field where she’s excelled since elementary school.
She was a 2015 Apple Harvest Hostess and volunteers with the Key Club and Zion Lutheran Church, among others. She also served as the tutoring director for the National Honor Society.
Simard is just as good at juggling extra curricular activities and school work. His four-year stint with the boys’ volleyball team, along with his job serving as student manager for girls’ volleyball, didn’t stop him from challenging himself in the classroom with successful completion of 10 college-level courses. He also volunteered for St. Dominic’s Church and was an officer for the SHS Spanish club.
Simard was actively involved in Project Lead the Way (PLTW) over the last four years, a program that prepares students for success in the engineering field.
Southington’s highest ranked scholars managed accelerated courses along with sports, jobs, and leisure activities but still managed to come out on top. Doran called it “surreal.”
“It was such an enjoyable experience,” said Simard, who will be studying aeronautical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).
Furtak was just as active in and out of the classroom, preparing herself for a career in the veterinary sciences. She was accepted into the pre-veterinarian program at the University of Connecticut and said she hopes to one day become an animal doctor.
“I came from two [Polish] immigrant parents, so they couldn’t necessarily be who they wanted to be,” said Furtak. “But they inspired me to be who I want to be.”
Of course, Furtak fully embraced her roots, attending Polish schooling for most of her life before entering Southington High School. She also volunteered regularly at Polish community events and festivals.
In school, she serves as secretary of Southington’s Future Farmers of America chapter and participates in the organization’s competitions related to veterinary science.
All three of the top students have resumes filled with awards and accolades for their academic achievement, which will be recognized at graduation by the special cords hanging from their necks.
“It’s crazy how far we’ve come,” Furtak said. “It’s really an honor.”
The top three seniors all said they are worried about trading the familiar halls of SHS for big college campuses. Simard added that no one else from his class committed to RPI, so he won’t know his peers.
“But I’m excited for a fresh start,” he said.
Calling college a “whole new ballgame,” Doran said she was most excited about having freedom, but nervous about the lack of structure.
“I imagine it’ll be more flexible,” Furtak added.
The valedictorian, salutatorian, and class essayist will all address their peers with speeches during the commencement ceremony on June 20 at SHS.
The program begins at 5:30 p.m. on the turf field.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.