This year’s top two Rocky Point seniors had very close GPAs, but very different interests.
Valedictorian Connor Middleton, who focused on government and politics, graduated with a 106.71 GPA. He received a perfect score of 800 on his SAT II U.S. History test; was a member of the varsity lacrosse team; a Human Rights Institute for High School Leaders presenter and facilitator; a Students Building Bridges Award recipient; garnered state, senate and assembly citations for community service; is a kempo jiujitsu black belt; and a Peer Networking facilitator with socially challenged students.
Beyond all that, he said his best experience was as the vice president of the school’s Human Rights Club, which has worked to spread knowledge on the subject and its abuse taking place all over the world.
“It’s something that we’ve built up over the years and it’s something I’m really passionate about,” Middleton said. “I’ve been fortunate to have good teachers in [history,] and they’ve just helped me gather interest in it. They made history come alive.”
Middleton will be attending Williams College in Massachusetts where he will be double majoring in political philosophy and economy with a concentration in global studies. He said he hopes to take that knowledge to the state department or the United Nations as a diplomat, an ambassador or an economic advisor. He said he’d like to travel to developing countries to work with nations on human trafficking, human rights abuses and natural disaster relief.
“I think spending your first year or two getting involved and immersing yourself in activities both inside and outside of school, and sticking with it, is important,” Middleton said. “It was helpful for me.”
Salutatorian Kyle Markland was just edged out by Middleton, graduating with a 106.69 GPA, but heavily involved in robotics and engineering.
Markland was a member of the cross-country and field and track teams, played double bass in the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of New York at Carnegie Hall and helped found Rocky Point’s robotics teams, all while running a YouTube channel that focuses on LEGO Mindstorms robot building. This year he published a book detailing how to build several quirky and complicated LEGO robots.
In May, Markland attended the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which was attended by students from over 75 countries.
“I had what was probably the best week of my life,” Markland said of his experience in Pennsylvania. “I didn’t end up placing, but it was such an awesome experience because we had 1,800 kids about my age who were just as interested in research and technology as I was.”
Markland will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he plans to study engineering on a robotics track. He said he hopes to open his own technology or robotics company, or would like to work with major car manufacturing companies on self-driving car technology.
Markland said those kids going into their first year of high school this September should make the most out of the next four years.
“Work hard now, because these four years are possibly the most pivotal four years of your life,” Markland said. “There’s nothing more powerful than somebody who plans their work and works their plan.”