DIXFIELD — The Class of 2011 valedictorian and salutatorian at Dirigo High School have high expectations for themselves and their parents strongly support their success.
Emily Ray, 17, daughter of Diane and Richard Ray of Canton, and Spencer Ross, 18, son of Bruce and Cindy Ross of Dixfield, are the top two in their class.
Both will give short talks at the June 3 graduation, along with several other students who will share their thoughts.
“My parents have always said that academics come first,” said Spencer, who has excelled in baseball, basketball and football.
He plans to attend the University of New England as a biology major, then go on to medical school to become an orthodontist. His father is a dentist in the River Valley area.
“I’ve always been interested in it and I’ve been brought up with it,” Spencer said.
He job-shadowed an orthodontist and it was an experience that intrigued him.
“I like how you’re constantly challenged throughout the day,” he said. “No two patients are the same.”
Emily Ray said her mother, Diane, has helped, when needed, and has always drilled into her to do the best she can no matter what.
“I like learning and knowing things,” Emily said. “I like to be proud of the work I turn in.”
Her years as a member or an officer of the debate team at Dirigo, as well as the top ranked debater in the state, has led her to a career plan to become a public-interest or civil lawyer.
She’ll attend Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, where some of her family lives, and major in philosophy and English.
“We do a lot of philosophy and governmental debates about moral issues,” she said.
Both young people are members of the National Honor Society. Spencer is on the Student Council and has served as captain of three sports during his senior year. Emily is on the tennis team, the math team, was on the school newspaper staff and is a Girl Scout.
Both Emily and Spencer have traveled outside the United States, which both say has given them a new perspective on how they see the world.
Spencer has traveled to several islands in the Caribbean, which made him realize how fortunate people in the Untied States are, he said. Emily has traveled to the Dominican Republic and to Europe on a World War II tour.
Friends figure heavily in both their lives and help de-stress them when their lives get busy.
Both say the education they have received at Dirigo has well-prepared them for the future.
When Emily traveled to Europe on the World War II tour, she met many other young people whom she said weren’t nearly as prepared for the future as she believes she is.
“There was no comparison,” Emily said. “We are responsible; many of them were not.”
Spencer said he feels well-prepared, too, for the next chapter in his life.
“Dirigo is a good school, a small school. I’m ready to go,” he said.
Both have suggestions for underclassmen.
Spencer said the achievements made in high school are important.
“Colleges are judging you on high school, so don’t slack off,” he said.
Emily suggested that students take pride in their work.
“Those who don’t care don’t get good grades,” she said. “I’ve seen brilliant students, but they don’t care. Home life affects students, but you have to take pride in what you are doing.”