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WOOD RIVER JUNCTION â€” In the Class of 2013, not only are Chariho seniors Hannah Baker and Madeline Neff good friends, they have also helped each other achieve the highest academic rankings: Baker is valedictorian and Neff is salutatorian. And, because theyâ€™re used to teaming up on class projects and homework, the two have decided to write one speech together and will deliver it side by side at the podium on graduation day.
â€śWeâ€™re mostly going to swap paragraphs. I think Iâ€™m saying the first two and sheâ€™s saying the next two,â€ť said Baker.
While the pair is still pondering what they want to say to their classmates, they were willing to share a few ideas that they will include in their speech.
â€śThereâ€™s a career for everyone and itâ€™s OK if you donâ€™t know what you want to do right away. Itâ€™s okay to change your mind because obviously five years ago you probably didnâ€™t want to be the same thing you want to be now,â€ť Baker said.
â€śDonâ€™t be afraid if you donâ€™t know what you want to do. As long as you work hard and youâ€™re willing to make sacrifices to succeed and not always take the easy way out, youâ€™ll find yourself where you want to be eventually and doing something that you love,â€ť said Neff.
As far as careers, Baker commented that she isnâ€™t sure what she wants to do yet, but she knows that science is her main area of interest. She is going to attend Haverford College in Pennsylvania in the fall.
â€śIâ€™m a Quaker so that what got me interested and a couple of my friends go there â€“ they said itâ€™s a great school and academically challenging,â€ť she said.
â€śI want to major probably in biology. Iâ€™m really interested in life sciences and and different parts of biology like anatomy and plant sciences. I think a big part of this was my AP bio course, (which was taught by) Miss Phyne â€“ she is one of the best teachers I had,â€ť she said.
Baker added that one of her favorite classes at Chariho was anatomy and physiology, which she took during her sophomore year.
â€śIâ€™ve always really liked science but that (class) got me interested in thinking about that as a major and as a career. And then my AP Bio class solidified that,â€ť Baker said.
â€śI donâ€™t really have any clearcut path. Iâ€™m interested in what happens in college and whether I decide to go grad school or I decide to go into the workforce, that will be based on what my options are for me when Iâ€™m leaving college,â€ť she said.
Salutatorian Neff, on the other hand, has decided on her career path. She is going to Northeastern Universityâ€™s six year physical therapy program, from which she will earn a doctorate.
â€śThe teacher who influenced me the most was Mrs. Dion who I had junior year for physiology because having her as a teacher and taking her class really showed me how fascinated I am by the human body and that opened me up to wanting to be in the health career field. So, it was her class that inspired me to become a physical therapist,â€ť said Neff.
â€śProbably the subject Iâ€™m best at is, ironically, English, which is kind of unrelated to what Iâ€™m majoring in, but I always do well in that class. When I was a sophomore I took a class that was supposed to be for juniors and the last two years I took AP English, so Iâ€™ve gotten pretty good at expressing myself, which is something Iâ€™ll be able to use as a therapist so thatâ€™s always good, but science classes are the (ones) I enjoy the most,â€ť she added.
It was helpful that Neff was strong in English because that was Bakerâ€™s hardest subject.
â€śIâ€™ve always been challenged the most by my English classes just because Iâ€™m not as good at areas that are subject to interpretation, especially writing essays has never been my strong suit. But I love reading books and discussing them with the class. But the writing component has been the hardest for me,â€ť said Baker.
â€śIâ€™m more of an empirical thinker rather than a creative thinker. I like it when you understand the material, you can get to a right answer and coming to that right answer is very satisfying,â€ť she added.
For Neff, math was the biggest challengeâ€”luckily that was Bakerâ€™s strong suit.
â€śDefinitely math (was the hardest subject). I like math but itâ€™s always a little hard for me to conceptualize everything and I usually had to stay after school to figure out how to do everything so thatâ€™s was always a little bit tough,â€ť said Neff.
â€ś(Baker) has helped me throughout my years with math classes because sheâ€™s really good at math so sheâ€™s been my unofficial tutor throughout high school. We are opposites a little bit,â€ť she added.