CLASS OF 2021

Meet the Top 10 students in Cranston East's class of 2021

By HERALD STAFF
Posted 7/12/21

1. Aislinn Baxter

Aislinn Baxter, Cranston High School East’s class of 2021 valedictorian, will attend Brown University in the fall. While her current intended major is cognitive science, …

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CLASS OF 2021

Meet the Top 10 students in Cranston East's class of 2021

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1. Aislinn Baxter

Aislinn Baxter, Cranston High School East’s class of 2021 valedictorian, will attend Brown University in the fall. While her current intended major is cognitive science, she also hopes to study biological sciences, history and Spanish.

Baxter’s academic achievements have earned her induction into the National Honor Society and Rhode Island Honor Society. Her special recognitions include the AP Scholar Award, National Honor Society Spirit of Excellence Award, Excellence in AP Spanish Language and Culture Award, and Holocaust and Genocide Education Excellence Award. She also earned highest honors at East.

“I was on the East cross country, swim, indoor track and outdoor track sports teams for almost the entirety of my high school experience,” she said. “I was also the girls’ captain for the varsity cross country, swim and outdoor track teams my senior year.”

Baxter said the pandemic has shaped her perspective on her high school years, but that fonder memories will remain as well.

“I will definitely remember it as the time of the coronavirus the most. It is a global epidemic that seems straight out of a movie, after all,” she said.

She continued: “But besides that, I’ll remember the time I spent on my sports teams and the effort that I put in to improve myself either on the track or in the water. Most of all, I’ll remember all the friends that I made or had at East, and how much I love them … I’ve coped this year by talking to my friends. They have been my lifeline throughout this depressing year and have really made it bearable, whether it was through COVID-safe NH trips, N.C.F. (No Complain Friday), or just making jokes in our group chat. The pandemic has just made me realize how important they are in my life and how much I’ll miss them in college.”

Asked who has contributed most to her success and enjoyment of high school, Baxter said: “My teachers have always been very supportive and hardworking, so I really appreciate those teachers that have helped me and truly enjoyed their work. My friends have really made my high school experience great. They are all so amazing and funny, and I’m so thankful that they’re in my life. They really helped me get through this year in particular, so I really love you guys! And, of course, my family has always been there to support me in everything that I do. Thank you so much to my family, my parents, and my sister for always being there for me and for loving me always.”

In terms of her motivation to excel, Baxter said she “was always just doing my best.”

“As long as I tried and did the best that I could,” she said, “I was satisfied with myself.”

2. William Hardy

William Hardy, salutatorian of Cranston High School East’s class of 2021, will attend Brown University in the fall. While he has not decided on a major, his interests include history, music, and international and public affairs.

During his time at East, Hardy was a four-year member of the Jazz Band and Marching Band, serving as low brass captain in his sophomore and junior years and a drum major in his senior year. In his freshman and sophomore years, he was a member of the Indoor Percussion Ensemble.

Hardy was also a four-year member of the Math Team. In his freshman year, he participated in Science Olympiad.

Hardy’s special recognitions include the Math Department Award and Principal Achievement Award. He was also a National Merit Scholarship finalist.

“I will remember spending time with my friends in and outside of school, and competing with the marching band,” Hardy said. “Without my friends my time in high school wouldn’t have been anywhere near as enjoyable. My friends all motivate one another, and having close friends around you can make even the most tedious things fun.”

Asked what motivated him to excel, Hardy said: “I’m a pretty determined person, so a lot of my motivation has come from myself, but I’m also lucky to have great role models in my life who have helped me. I’ve always been able to look up to my older brother and my parents which has definitely helped me throughout high school.”

Reflecting on the pandemic, Hardy said: “It has been difficult to deal with boredom and a lack of motivation this past year, so for me it has been important to do anything I can to break up the monotony of online school. I really enjoyed being able to go back to school in person twice a week because it let me talk to other people and helped with the boredom of the pandemic.”

3. Nabil Chaudhry

Nabil Chaudhry, who ranks third in the Cranston High School East class of 2021, will attend Northeastern University in the fall with a major in mathematical biology.

During his time at East, Chaudhry served as president of the National Honor Society.

“This has included helping write cards for nursing homes, reading stories to children in elementary school, and helping fellow classmates as well as myself find community service opportunities during COVID-19,” he said.

Chaudhry also volunteered with the Providence-based organization Project Goal, working with children in grades five to eight who wanted to play soccer. It was a natural fit for Chaudhry, who played varsity soccer at East, captained his team outside school – which played in places like England and Italy – and remains active in the MLS Next League, which involved multiple days of practice each week.

“As a requirement [of Project Goal], they had to complete academic work before getting on the field, so I helped them with their school work first, and then taught them basic soccer skills like the correct shooting techniques and foot skills,” Chaudhry said. “It was heartwarming to see that despite their hardships, they were passionate about academics and soccer.”

Chaudhry also participated in other groups and activities at East, including Math Team for four years and Science Club as a freshman. His special recognitions include a number of scholarships, among them the Linda Lorenzo Scholarship, Class of 2020 Scholarship, Dina H. Frappier Memorial Scholarship and Vincent D. Morgera Memorial Scholarship.

From his high school years, Chaudhry said he will most remember “the relationships that I created.”

“I created great relationships with both my teachers and the students in Cranston,” he said. “I have built friendships that I will have for the rest of my life and I have made great relationships with my teachers through every year of school. People with all different backgrounds come together at Cranston East. The teachers at Cranston High School East really care about the students and have acted as mentors to me throughout the years. I would not be where I am today without them.”

Chaudhry praised his teachers, who he said “have driven me to do my best every year.”

“They have always been there to help me when I need them and take time out of their own lives to help outside of school,” he said.

Chaudhry also thanked his friends, who “have always been there to make me laugh and have driven me to be my best,” and his parents, who “have contributed more than anyone to my success.”

“My parents motivated me the most to excel,” he said. “Both of my parents worked very hard their whole life to provide me with a great life. My father moved from Pakistan to the United States and worked extremely hard to provide for our family. I was motivated by the desire to make myself and my parents proud. They provided me with a life with little worry and I would like to make their sacrifices worth it. Their hard work has inspired me to try my best and have the right priorities. I have always put academics and soccer over everything else, except family, in life, and it has pushed me to excel.”

Reflecting on the pandemic, Chaudhry said: “The main way I have coped with this unconventional year is through online interactions with my friends. Whether on FaceTime or Discord, we have been able to continue to communicate. We have been able to stay together and make great moments despite having to stay inside the whole year … It once again emphasized that family is the most important thing in life and that they will always be there no matter what.”

4. Sophie Smyth

Sophie Smyth, who ranks fourth in Cranston High School East’s class of 2021, will attend Colgate University in the fall to major in neuroscience.

Smyth has been involved in a wide range of groups and activities during her time at East. She served as historian of the Class Council and as a member of the Math and Science teams for all four years. On the Math Team, she was part of a group that finished sixth among Rhode Island’s high schools in a 2019-20 competition. As a member of the Science Team, she competed in the Ocean Bowl, Science Bowl and Science Olympiad.

She was part of Brown University’s Brown Brain Bee, taking neuroscience classes from undergraduate students on the university’s campus every Saturday for four years. She attended weekly lessons with Brown students, and collaborated on projects with other local high school students, through the Brown Science Prep program, and additionally participated in Brown’s Pathways to Medicine Program, attending lecturers, working on a capstone project with a medical school mentor and ultimately providing a presentation at Warren Alpert Medical School.

During her sophomore year, Smyth completed a Women in Technology Internship at Johnson Controls. She was one of 14 young women selected to work collaboratively in small groups along with mentors from Johnson Controls on engineering projects that developed products for fire safety technology for the company.

Aside from her academic pursuits, Smyth has also been active in dance. She has been a senior company dancer at Carolyn Dutra Dance Studio for 14 years, serving as the company’s treasurer and as a demonstrator for young dancers ages 3 to 8.

Smyth’s special recognitions include the Picerne Family Scholarship and Elks Scholarship, 2020 and 2021 third-place honors in the Brown Brain Bee Neuroscience Competition, the “Attention to Details” Award and the “All Around Success” Award.

“The most important lesson I have learned from high school that I will carry with me through life is that what you put into something is what you get out of it,” Smyth said. “I will always remember my teachers who were extremely dedicated to providing an excellent education and the lifelong friendships I have made.”

Smyth said her mother has “contributed the most to my success and enjoyment of high school.”

“She was the person I could rely on for anything, especially constant encouragement and support,” she said.

In terms of her motivation to excel, Smyth spoke of her “internal drive.”

“Simply put, I have always wanted to be better than who I was yesterday,” she said. “A constant push to improve and natural intellectual curiosity has kept me working hard throughout my high school career.”

Reflecting on the pandemic, Smyth said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused my class to be resistant and resilient. As we endured many disappointments, I had to resist giving up the hard work I had put into my education for the past 12 years. I had to be resilient when navigating a new way of learning independently. Conquering the challenges over the past year have caused me to have a more hopeful outlook on the future and have made me realize that hard work can allow you to succeed in anything.”

5. Nathaniel Poshkus

Nathaniel Poshkus, who ranks fifth in Cranston High School East’s class of 2021, will attend Case Western Reserve University this fall with a major in civil engineering.

During his time at East, Poshkus has been captain of the baseball team and a member of the All State Choir and All Eastern Choir. His special recognitions include earning induction into the National Honor Society.

“I’ll remember the bonds I’ve built with my peers,” Poshkus said of his high school years. “I’ve made countless friendships over my four years and I’m disappointed it’s coming to an end. I have no doubt then in a few years when I look back at my experience at CHSE, all the hours I put in to be a successful student will be forgotten and I’ll only remember being around the people I love.”

Poshkus spoke about those who most motivated him to excel and contributed to his success.

“I’ve had some great teachers at Cranston East and I’m sure I’ll stay in touch with them after graduation, but I owe all the credit to my friends and family. We truly did get though this together and I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today if it wasn’t for them,” he said.

He added: “I really wanted to make my parents proud. I always thought they were super smart growing up and I was envious of their vast knowledge. Another motivator was the friendly competition with the rest of the people on this list. I’ve known most of these people since I was about five years old and it has always been a big game of catch up. It doesn’t really matter who wins and we always help each other out. It was just a great way for us to keep ourselves in check.”

Poshkus said playing music helped him cope with the challenges of the pandemic – and also connected him with others well beyond Cranston.

“There wasn’t much else to do stuck in the house and it was a great creative outlet,” he said. “I started posting some content online and I’ve gained a pretty large online following of almost half a million people. It’s super overwhelming and a bit unbelievable, but it has opened the door for more serious music opportunities. It’s bizarre to think this whole experience probably never would’ve happened without the pandemic. “

6. Carter Wolf

Carter Wolf, who ranks sixth in the Cranston High School East class of 2021, will attend Northeastern University in the fall with a major in environmental engineering.

During his time at East, Wolf performed in the Orchestra and auditioned twice for All-State Orchestra on upright bass, being accepted both times. He played volleyball throughout his high school career and served as captain of the varsity team during his senior year. He has also been a member of the Math Team.

Aside from athletics, music and academics, Wolf worked on two progressive political campaigns during the 2020 election cycle. He is also part of the core team for Sunrise RI Youth, part of the national Sunrise Movement, “which fights for the Green New Deal, alongside social, racial and economic equality.”

Wolf said he will most remember “the sense of community” from his classes at East.

“At the end of every semester or class, I remember for most of the time, I would be bummed to lose what that class offered,” he said. “With different combinations of some of my best friends that I’d get to know, each class brought some new energy to the table.”

Wolf gave thanks to his “amazing friends,” especially Nabil Chaudhry and Nate Poshkus, who were in the majority of his classes.

“These guys have made high school fly by, have been a motivating factor for my work ethic, and I would not be in this place today without them,” he said.

Wolf said his motivation to excel stemmed from his “competitive nature” and his “love for many subjects.”

Reflecting on the pandemic, he said: “The last year of school and life in general has definitely been a struggle. For the most part, this struggle came in the form of learning how to work on a more independent scale. With over eight hours a day on a screen for school, and expectations that I should put in more each night, independently dividing up this time, yet giving room for mental wellness breaks was definitely a hurdle to overcome.”

7. Mina Grady

Mina Grady, who ranks seventh in Cranston High School East’s class of 2021, will attend Dickinson College in the fall. She has yet to decide on a major.

During her time at East, Grady served as captain of girls tennis team – earning 2020 All-State Girls Tennis Second Team Singles honors – and manager of the boys tennis team. She was also a member of the Choir, and was named a top 10 soprano in the All-State Choir.

Grady’s other special recognitions include induction in the National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society and Rhode Island Honor Society; being named to the honor roll; and earning the Farnum Memorial Scholarship, Alice Hall Allen Scholarship, CASA Scholarship, and 1783 Scholarship.

“I will remember the fun times that I had at school and outside of school with my friends, and also the great teachers that I had who loved teaching and worked so hard to create interesting and effective classes,” she said of her high school years.

Grady thanked her friends, family and teachers for their contributions to her success.

“They have all supported me in hard times and help me enjoy the better times,” she said. “My friends’ academic success, my parents’ encouragement, and my internal motivation pushed me to excel.”

Reflecting on the pandemic, Grady said: “This year, I have realized the importance of having a strong support system around you when times are tough. I also learned to enjoy spending time on my own, and to motivate myself to get things done rather than being told to in a school setting. I learned that it is much harder to do when in the comfort of your bedroom. In the future, I won’t take for granted all the things that I enjoy about being accompanied, in person, by other people during my education.”

8. Clemma Prince

Clemma Prince, who ranks eighth in Cranston High School East’s class of 2021, will attend the University of Vermont this fall. She has yet to decide on a major.

While at East, Prince was involved in a number of groups and activities, including the girls tennis team, Choir and Debate Club. She earned induction into the National Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society, and received both the Cranston East Book Award and the Alice Hall Allen Class of 1935 Scholarship.

“I will remember and cherish the relationships with friends and teachers that I made and maintained throughout the past four years,” Prince said. “I know that I will always remain friends with my best friends in high school and I will always remember the teachers that made a huge contribution to my education.”

Prince said her parents “have always expressed their belief in the importance of a good education.” That support, and the instruction she received from “teachers that challenged me in classes,” helped her to succeed and prepared her for higher education.

“Support from my friends, family and teachers were huge motivators,” she said. “Another motivator was my goal of attending college and furthering my education.”

Prince said working to maintain a “positive outlook” helped her cope with the challenges of the pandemic.

“I convinced myself that better days were ahead of me and that helped me to get through the tougher times,” she said. “This year has taught me that spending time with others is so important. Being away from people for so long has shown me that I need to cherish the times I get to spend with people.”

9. Maura Potter

Maura Potter, who ranks ninth in Cranston High School East’s class of 2021, will attend Quinnipiac University this fall.

During her time at East, Potter took part in a number of groups and activities. Athletically, she played on the varsity tennis team, serving as a captain, earning a Division II 2nd Singles Award and going undefeated during her senior year. She has also played on the basketball and varsity track and field teams.

Additionally, Potter was founder and president of the Debate Club, starting the group up for the first time in more than five years.

Potter’s special recognitions include the Pell Medal for Excellence in History, English Book Award, Social Studies Award and Cranston Athletics Scholarship Award.

Potter said from her high school years, she will most remember “the bond I had with my friends and the lasting impact my teachers had on me.”

“All of my social studies teachers contributed to my success, including Mr. Maynard, who has been a mentor and motivator these last two years!” she said. “I would not be the same person without my teachers who helped some grow. Every teacher I have had has left a positive impact on me and influenced me to pursue my dreams.”

Potter said her desire to enter public service has been a key driver of her success.

“The idea that I could make a major impact and help change the world motivated me,” she added. “America needs to be equal for all people and the idea that I can help achieve this by being in Congress has fueled my passion for learning from a young age.”

Reflecting on the pandemic, Potter said: “I was able to cope with the struggles of the pandemic by being with the ones I love and reminding myself of how grateful I am to be with them. COVID-19 has made me realize how lucky I am and has further influenced me to take part in politics at a national level.”

10. Christy Mak

Christy Mak, who ranks 10th in Cranston High School East’s class of 2021, will attend Bryant University in the fall with a major in accounting.

Mak said involvement with libraries was a major part of her time at East.

“I volunteered in the school library and Cranston public libraries,” she said. “I worked in Providence Public Library’s Teen Data for Good program, analyzing and visualizing data for nonprofit organizations, and was a teacher’s assistant for an introductory data analysis and visualization class for fellow teens in Providence Public Library.”

Mak has also been successful as an artist. She earned induction into the National Art Honor Society and won the Scholastic Art & Writing Silver Key for drawing and illustration. Additionally, she has received high honors.

“The moments I will remember would be the laughs I shared with friends alongside my teachers who made school engaging and informative,” she said. “I will also remember the different types of people I met, especially compared to how shy I was talking to others before high school.”

Mak thanked her friends for their contributions to her success, saying: “It was reassuring how they were willing to help if someone was struggling over an assignment and how they made light of weird or stressful situations.”

She also spoke of how the experiences of her parents, and the instruction from her teachers, have shaped her outlook and approach to education.

“Since my parents immigrated to the United States, I don’t want to squander the sacrifices they made for me to receive the opportunities I won’t otherwise have in their home country,” she said. “Moreover, my teachers are passionate about their subjects and inspire me to truly pay attention and learn.”

Mak reflected on the pandemic, which began as a two-week break from school and became something much more challenging.

“I missed interacting with other people in person, and it was slightly awkward at times matching my classmates’ voices with their profile pictures instead of their faces,” she said. “COVID-19 thus made me realize how I took school, especially the social aspect, for granted.”

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