RUMFORD — Katie Billings and Nick Hamel have a lot in common.

Besides being the Mountain Valley High School Class of 2012’s valedictorian and salutatorian, their grades are separated by about half a point and both find science exciting and challenging.

And both are taking part in higher education that only a few ever get to do.

Billings, the valedictorian, will attend Dartmouth College. She plans to enter the pre-med program with an eventual goal of being a doctor or medical researcher.

Hamel is one of only a handful of students who received a full scholarship to the University of Southern Maine in the pioneer science program, where he will study engineering or math.

Billings knew she wanted to be valedictorian of her class and to attend an Ivy League college when she started high school.

I’ve always had high goals,” she said.

She has taken all the science courses available at her school, as well as some at the University of Maine at Augusta. She has studied anatomy and physiology, various diseases and mutation and genetic research.

And, apparently, she has an enormous amount of energy, judging from the number of in-school and out-of-school activities she has participated in during her four years.

She’s played competitive tennis, taken dance lessons, is a local and state officer for the National Honor Society, where she has led a variety of community service projects, is a member of Peer Helpers, plays the saxophone and clarinet, is a youth ministry leader at her church, Parish of the Holy Savior, and she works part-time. In her few quiet moments, she likes to draw.

She also has a lot of grit.

I’m the first generation (in her family) to go to college. Everyone told me I couldn’t get into an Ivy League school. It was just another challenge,” she said.

Her teacher, Heidi Broomhall, is her mentor and encouraged her to pursue applications to an Ivy League school.

Hamel is very involved in music as well as science.

He plays the saxophone at Mountain Valley as well as with the Mahoosuc Community Band in Bethel. He’s an avid video gamer and thinks he might eventually design video games.

He has also taught chess to young children at Meroby Elementary School and is a member of the National Honor Society. As a member of the math team, he has scored in the top three at every meet. Hamel also likes robotics and is pleased to see that the club will be started up again next year.

Hamel wants to see the greater world and take part in a variety of new experiences.

At college, I’ll get to spend four years with like-minded people, in science,” he said.

He credits social studies teacher Chris Carver with preparing him for a rigorous college career.

Mr. Carver’s AP history class was a trial by fire. It’s the most beneficial class I’ve ever taken,” he said.

Both Billings and Hamel said Broomhall and Carver were significant influences in their lives.

Katie is the daughter of Michael and Michelle Billings. She has an older sister, Heidi, who is studying art at Central Maine Community College.

Nick is the son of Kim Hamel. He has a younger brother, Griffin, who is a freshman at MVHS.

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