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SOUTH KINGSTOWN â This yearâs valedictorian and salutatorian at South Kingstown High School consider themselves to be typical high school students.
Valedictorian Sam Spink likes sports, playing basketball at the park and hanging out with friends. He even co-founded the Frisbee club and paints classrooms with the schoolâs Habitat for Community group.
Salutatorian Max Grear enjoys playing jazz on upright bass, plays guitar and has been tasked with painting his house this summer.
He is in a band and participates in Project Venue, which hosts open mic and other âartsyâ events for local kids.
Despite their insistence that theyâre average teenage boys, theyâve found themselves at the top of their class, though they admit they didnât really compete to get there.
âIâve been thinking a lot about my college plans throughout all of high school,â Spink said. âSo thatâs probably one of the motivating factors for me, being aware the whole time that thereâs constant steps you have to take. You canât just be thinking about now, the future is just as important.â
Spink said while he valued academics, he never really put much pressure on himself to be number one, though others did.
âLots of other people like to talk about rankings numbers and that kind of thing,â he said. âI liked it a lot better when no one really knew for a few years in the beginning because I felt like there was more pressure from my friends, like they liked hearing about me being number one more than I did because if I were to fall a few spots Iâd be OK with that. Iâd be more disappointed with the fact that I would have a bunch of friends telling me I fell down a few spots.â
Grear said he thought he might be somewhere in the top 10 of his class, but not necessarily number two.
âI vaguely figured Iâd be in the top 10 or something but I never really thought I would be at the top of the class,â he said. âI just kind of I moved up a spot each year, just by accident I guess. Iâve never really tried to compete with other people at the top of the class.â
He continued, âA lot of people are kind of surprised Iâm number two, which I guess is kind cool that they donât think Iâm a nerd,â he said. âBut itâs not that surprising, is it?â
Spink and Grear said they never really competed against each other for the top spots, but are friends taking the same Advanced Placement Spanish class.
âI never really tried to compete with Sam because I always figured heâd beat me out, but that wasnât really like a goal I had,â Grear said.
The boys laughed.
âI just think itâs kind of cool because weâre in the same Spanish class, which is pretty small and itâs just like I kind of feel a certain pride of AP Spanish beating out AP French,â Grear said.
Spink agreed that there was never much competition between them. They said there is much more competition in the rising senior class.
âTheir class has a lot more [competition],â Spink said. âTheyâre always wondering what the other students are doing, while with this one, I donât think Max and I ever asked each other what our GPAs are, like once, the whole time. I like that a lot better too.â
Spink added, âIt feels like almost a duo, like some sort of awesome tandem of friends as opposed to enemies.â
Together, Spink and Grear have trekked through a host of AP classes including calculus, biology, Spanish, chemistry and U.S. History.
Now, theyâre about ready to go off to college.
âIâm excited, a little nervous,â said Spink, who will attend the University of Rhode Island in the fall. âBut I donât know, I feel like the transition shouldnât go too poorly.â
Spink said he plans to study engineering. Right now, heâs thinking biomedical.
âBut thatâs subject to change,â he said.
Grear, on the other hand, isnât sure what heâs going to study.
âIâm not really decided,â he said. âEither English or at Princeton, thatâs where Iâm going, thereâs the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and that has to do with civil service and stuff like that. I figure I can kind of decide which path Iâm willing to go down once Iâm there and taking classes and all that. Iâm interested in journalism. I feel like one of the other will help either focusing on how to write or what the current issues are.â
The seniors fished classes last week and the only thing standing between Spink and Grear and the summer are the speeches they must give at graduation June 17 at URIâs Ryan Center.
âI donât really mind speaking that much,â Spink said. âItâs more just getting something down, than the actual delivery.â
âIâm looking forward to it,â he said. âYesterday, I just kind of sat down at my computer and banged out a speech, which I think is pretty good. But I donât know. It will be a pretty big place âŠ that will be the only intimidating thing to me. I canât imagine giving a space at the Ryan Center giving a speech to this vast stretch of seats. If you say a joke, can people hear you? Are you going to sense the laughter in the room or is it just going to be an awkward silence. Even if itâs successful, how do you know?â
Spink added, âA failed joke would suck.â
He continued, âFor me the worst jokes seem to be the planned out ones that I write ahead of time because those just seem kind of corny. So I donât know if I want to improv a little bit or get it all down. Because with speeches I like to have some room to change things or else I feel like Iâll sound too scripted. The best way to perform without reading off the paper is to not be reading off the paper. I need to write something. I still havenât started mine. I plan on procrastinating that a little bit. I definitely want to leave some area to just adlibbing in some parts.â
While Spink had yet to put pen to paper, Grear said he came up with a pretty good idea.
âItâs kind of like a list type thing,â he said. âIt relates to SK but I donât want to give away the details. It should be the kind of thing where certain people who went to SK will recognize what Iâm talking about.â
After graduation, Grear said, aside from painting the house this summer, he hopes to book more jazz gigs with his brother, who plays piano, and their trumpet-playing friend.
Spink has a summer job working the breakfast shift at Jimâs Dock Restaurant in East Matunuck, meaning he has to wake up at 5:30 a.m.
âItâs not that bad,â he said. âItâs pretty good hours but it takes up a lot of mornings and a lot of sleep.â
Spink and Grear will deliver their speeches Monday, June 17 at South Kingstown High School Graduation, which will be held at 6 p.m. at URIâs Ryan Center.