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The A Team: More than a dozen Bainbridge Spartans rise to the top of their class

Ford Eiman - Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review
Ford Eiman
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review

A group of standout Spartans may have a bit of unexpected trouble standing out from the crowd.

That’s because this group of super students is a crowd.

Bainbridge High School boasts 13 valedictorians this year. And while each Spartan has different reasons for chasing — and obtaining — the lofty honor, they said it all boils down to good old-fashioned hard work.

The stellar scholars and their fellow members of the Class of 2013 will gather at Bainbridge Stadium for commencement on Saturday. The newly minted grads will pick up their diplomas after a ceremony that’s scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

Milan Chang

Chang can’t point to any specific secret to his valedictorian status, but he does credit his family as a key factor in his success at BHS.

“My parents give me a lot of support,” he said. “They never put too much pressure on me and supported me in whatever I wanted to do.”

“My brother is very intelligent and he set a very good example for me,” Chang added.

While he made the grade in high school, he advises his under-classmates to not stress out over their own studies.

“Don’t take anything too seriously, have fun with it,” he said.

Chang will be attending Georgetown University in Washington DC in the fall. He plans to major in government.

Emma Gray

Gray was surprised when she was notified that she was a valedictorian, though success in school was something she aimed for.

“It was a definitely a goal, but I wasn’t expecting to be valedictorian,” she said. “It was just something that happened and I’m pretty proud of it.” “If you would have asked me freshman year I would have said high school is going to be really hard and there’s no way I’m going to get be able to get all As,” she laughed. “It was really important to me, I would have been really disappointed if I hadn’t made good grades.

She said that good old fashioned hard work is her secret to good grades. Gray needed the challenge to stay on top.

“Work really hard in school. Don’t slack off,” she advises her fellow classmates. “Take challenging courses because that was really important to me. I wouldn’t have done as well if I took easier courses.”

Gray is heading to Rice University in Houston Texas after graduation.

Sam Bishoff

Bishoff achieved good grades in the classroom, but it was his music that truly drove him to do better while on Bainbridge Island. He will be heading off to Temple University in Philadelphia to further his music studies.

For Bishoff, it’s all about balance.

“It was a hard thing balancing school and music,” he said. “If it’s not music it’s something else like sports. You just have to decide how much you are willing to spend on school and whatever else it is you like to do, and find a good balance where you aren’t putting off either more than you want to.”

Bishoff played in the school’s band all four years he was there, in addition to jazz band an other extra curricular musical endeavors. He did, however, put in some extra hours to ensure that he didn’t fall behind in class.

“I never think that I work really hard, but now that I look back I definitely did spend a lot of late nights studying,” he said. “I generally do really well on tests. (Test taking) is a skill, and it’s not something everyone has.”

Mike Chaffee

Chaffee has had no doubts about his studies or where he is heading. The BHS valedictorian has aspirations to become an engineer and will attend Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif. in the fall. It’s all part of his plan to become and engineer for SpaceX, NASA or other astronautics company.

“I knew what I wanted to do, engineering or something in the sciences, and I wanted to pushed myself and see how far I could take it,” Chaffee said.

Chafee began planning his climb to the top of the grade when he came to Bainbridge High School, and developed skills to get him there.

“From my very first day of freshman year it was something I was setting out to do (become a valedictorian),” he said.

He found a way to  manage his efforts in school and passion on the court; playing tennis for the school all four years.

“Time management for sure, it’s always figuring out when my deadlines were and making a plan for when I would get everything done,” he said.

Ford Eimon

Eimon recently moved to Bainbridge Island from Templeton, Calif. and only spent one year at BHS. He was therefor startled to discover he was at the head of his class.

“I was not expecting it,” he said. “I actually moved here this year and at my old school they only had one valedictorian, so it’s a little weird for me to have 13.”

Though new to the school, he wasn’t at a loss for inspiring classes to take.

“I’ve really enjoyed the technical graphics and engineering design classes taught by Mr. Michaels,” Eimon said. “I’m planning on majoring in engineering.”

Eimon will attend California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo in the fall.

Brendan Willerford

Willerford will cross the country to attend Middlebury College after graduation. He has no immediate plans for a field of study, but he does know what he enjoyed at Bainbridge High School

“In high school I really liked world religions, it was one of my favorite classes,” he said, but he didn’t stop there.

“I liked my AP lit class too,” Willerford added. “But I wouldn’t say no to any of my science and math classes.”

He found it challenging to balance cross country and studying, but challenges are something that Willerford took head on at BHS. Becoming valedictorian was a challenge in itself and he used it to drive himself to an A.

“I was pretty successful my freshman year and so I decided it was something I could use to motivate myself to be the best that I could,” he said.

Brendan Redmond

It was all about staying goal-oriented for Redmond, who decided early on he wanted the valedictorian title.

“I set a goal, I wanted to be valedictorian and get a 4.0,” he said. “I kept my motivation up and was persistent.”

Like other high school students, Redmond said that he always had some sort of physical activity to do, and that he recommends not procrastinating when it comes to studying.

“Do the work when you get it, not the day before it’s due,” he said.

Redmond will attend the University of Washington in the fall.

Kay Sterner

Sterner found a passion at the pool while at Bainbridge High School. She swam for the Spartans and will take her swimming talents to Pomona College in Claremont Calif. after graduation.

“I’ve been a swimmer and that gave me really good work ethic and time management skills,” she said.

Managing her studies her sport was a skill she mastered thanks to a little perspective.

“You have to realize that your sport is your free time and your choice, and you have to get over the fact that you aren’t going to have as much time to relax and chill as other people,” Sterner said.

Becoming valedictorian was a goal for Sterner early on at BHS.

“I went into it my freshman year saying I was going to do my best and not put any expectations on myself,” she said. “But once I got that first 4.0 my first semester I decided it was going to be a goal.”

Sterner is considering pursuing a degree in environmental science.

Elise Ran

It’s not just about the race, rather, it’s about the marathon according to Ran who said she liked to think beyond the report card. And she recommends the same for her fellow Spartans.

“It’s good to keep in focus that you are working for something and that it’s not just a report card,” Ran said. “Think of it as a goal, not just a set of letters.”

The goal took time and effort for Ran, who didn’t come to her grades as easily as others.

“I think it was just hard work,” she said. “I’m not one of those people who just gets it. There are some people who don’t have to study at all, and I’m not one of those people so I worked really hard.”

“Talk to your teachers, it pays off,” she advises her classmates. “And don’t over schedule yourself.”

Ran will attend Georgetown University in Washington, DC in the fall where she will study international politics.

Antonia Papajani

Papajani will hit the ground running when she enters the University of Rochester in New York. She intends to double major in molecular genetics and political science and minor in latin. She’s even planning for more education after that.

“I’m hopefully going to medical school, because I want to be a surgeon,” Papajani said.

Her drive is an extension of her personality which doesn’t settle for less.

“I’ve always been kind of a perfectionist,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to (be valedictorian). I don’t like to settle for things.”

Papajani mastered the art of time management. She also notes that taking a variety of classes in high school helped her make the grade and look ahead to her future.

She recommends the same for futures Spartan graduates.

“Take a wide variety of classes, even ones they think they may not like,” Papajani said. “This is a time to figure out what you like and don’t like so you can go into college ahead of the curve, and make the best use of your time while paying for college.”

Mafalda Borges

When Borges wasn’t kicking it on the soccer field — three years on varsity and one on the JV team — she was hitting the books.

She found her niche in science and math while at BHS and plans to pursue the subjects in college.

“I’m going to Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts,” she said.

She plans on majoring in engineering at Olin.

“I really like math,” Borges said. “I’ve taken all the advanced math courses at the high school. I like science as well and engineering is a practical application of both of those subjects.”

But beyond her love of science, being a valedictorian was a goal from day one.

“I went into high school knowing I wanted to be a valedictorian,” she said. “Each year that I kept my 4.0 I wanted it a little more.”

Tyler Cox

Cox was pretty quick on the field running for track and cross country, but he didn’t sprint through school. He said he took the time to make friends and enjoy his four years at BHS.

“It is important to go to a good college, but at the same time don’t let school consume you, because if you leave high school and all you can say is that you got a 4.0 you kind of missed the point of this time,” he said.

Cox also noted that it is important not to let one’s social life consume them. He kept up this balancing act well. Becoming valedictorian wasn’t initially a goal, but when he saw the honor at the finish line, the race for the grade was on.

“It wasn’t something that freshman year or sophomore year I wanted to do, but I worked hard in school and at the end of my junior year I thought, ‘hey I could get a 4.0, I should try for this,’” Cox said.

“I’ve always had good study habits and I’m an organized person,” he added. “Most kids, if they put in the time and energy and they are focused, they can get pretty good grades.”

Cox will continue running at Bowdoin College in Maine.

Valedictorian Ella Banyas was unavailable for an interview and photograph.

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