Modern Ambition: The Class of 2011

Editors Note: One of HappyHudsonValley.com's first breaking stories was an in-depth interview with two very special kids - salutatorian Lauren Berg and valedictorian Adam Morehead of Newburgh Free Academy.  The district kindly put us in the room with the very anxious soon-to-be graduates who graciously answered our questions and gave us wonderful insight into the excitement of graduation day the morning of ! We proudly re-present Modern Ambition : The Class of 2011. Graduation day is arrival at a significant crossroads in the life of who you've been and the suspense of where you're going.  Many of the kids are coming to terms with this for the first time as they step onto the astroturf of the football field with 500 of their classmates.  The journey that leads to this moment  is a surprisingly independent one in contrast to the mass ceremony they find themselves in at the end of it.   The reality of graduation is poignantly bittersweet as the lessons of 12 years of education roll out behind each of them as they make their way one step at a time to a diploma hand-off ending. For the Valedictorian and Salutatorian it's also a moment of public appearance, an occasion to be portrayed as the faces of unfaltering dedication to academics.  With an audience waiting, they approach the podium to make their profound statement. We remind ourselves that the odds of success for this emerging generation of graduates increases two fold thanks to them. We are invested in the idea that what has lead them here will lead them on, but the truth is: that power lies in them alone. Luckily, that realization is not lost on them.

NFA Graduates

Left : Valedictorian, Adam Morehead        ◊       Right :   Salutatorian , Lauren Berg

Academically separated by .5%

Adam is going on to study Bio-Medical Engineering in spite of the fact that science is his hardest subject. Lauren - inspired by the arts - is moving on to Gordon College and hopes to become a published writer. I asked them if they had some advice for the graduating class of 2012 (not a typo - the graduating class of 2011 heard from them at graduation, I asked them to send a message to next year's grads). As a senior, Adam leaves an encouraging message about involvement. He wants next year's grads to know they should try to get involved in a lot of different things so they can start to find out what really interests them.  He not only suggests this, he lives by it.  His junior year he got involved with the cadets at West Point on a project aiming to build the first motorized lower leg prosthetic limb, an endeavor to benefit veterans returning from the war. The culmination of the project was a test run of the prosthetic where a volunteer successfully ran on the treadmill at a top speed of 9 miles per hour.   He says the experience was the deciding factor in his future pursuance of bio-medical at Yale.

"Life in it's barest form is about making decisions. There will be moments all throughout your life where you'll have to say, 'Should I stay where I am or take a leap of faith?'  We're doing that now - leaving our homes, our families, our friends.  The most important thing is you have to learn how to make a decision. No matter what the risk, if you don't stick your head out a little bit you're never going to succeed."

Lauren started her academic career in a Christian school; but her definition of religion lends itself more to the relationship side of the organization than the rules that it's known for. She demonstrates that at her church - Trinity Lutheran - where she relishes the opportunity to mentor and be a role model to junior high aged kids. She also spent 4 valuable years on the tennis court where she became enriched by the game dynamic in which individual performance simultaneously enhances the over-all standing of the team.  Her brother Andrew is a college student at Franklin Marshall and it is his dedication to outstanding academic achievement that has inspired her the most. In terms of advice, she laughingly notes how tempting it was to give up the academic grind after winter break and she provides something of a warning to the Class of 2012. "Do not  fall into the temptation of senioritis!"  Dedication and discipline were the driving forces of her success and she expects nothing but the best of herself, a theme common to both her and Adam.  Lauren has an optimistic view of her classmates and to prove it she sums up our interview by saying, "We all have potential in something".

Congratulations to all of the graduates of the class of 2011!

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