Brandywine 2022 valedictorians share Bobcat experiences

Published 11:08 am Saturday, May 7, 2022

NILES TOWNSHIP — A trio of Brandywine High School seniors will take the commencement stage as the top academic members of the 2022 graduating class.

Connor Sobecki, Olivia Laurita and Billy Gibson have earned the title of valedictorian with 4.0 grade point averages over the course of their academic careers.

Below, the three students shared their thoughts on graduation, their Brandywine experience and more. (Note: This conversation has been edited for both length and clarity.)

How does it feel to be graduating soon?

Olivia: “It doesn’t feel too real. It doesn’t really feel like it’s already here and that it’s actually about to end.

Billy: “It’s a very interesting boat that I’m in, because every single year, it’s sort of been this routine of always going on to the next year in a familiar place. But next year, I’m going to a completely new area and I’m sort of leaving behind what I started. I’m going to continue on that journey. I’m excited but also very nervous. It’s gonna be a long road but it’s all gonna be worth it.”

Connor: “It’s been fun. I’ve been having a lot of fun lately but it’s just crazy to think but it’s gonna be over soon.”

What are your plans after graduation?

Olivia: “I will be attending the University of Michigan and majoring in political science. I plan on taking the law track and going to law school after. I don’t know exactly what field I want to go into but I just know that that’s my goal as of right now.”

Billy: “This fall, I will be attending Purdue University. I’m actually part of the Polytechnic Institute with the program that I am taking part of because I’m planning on majoring in audio engineering technology; it’s very exciting. I’m also planning on doing the five-year program because it allows me to get my bachelor’s and my master’s within five years. After that, I’m gonna pursue some sort of field in audio engineering. I’m not sure if I want to do live events or recordings but I do want to do something with sound.”

Connor: “I’m gonna go to Western Michigan University next year as an aviation flight science major. I’m going to be a pilot. 

How did you balance your academics, extracurriculars and even your social life?

Olivia: “It was a lot. I’m in varsity volleyball, basketball, soccer, and I’m also president of the National Honor Society and dual-enrolled with Lake Michigan College. It was a lot of balancing schoolwork with extracurriculars but it was worth it. I feel like it’s important to still have fun while we’re still here. Balancing school with going to games and hanging out with friends was still really important to me. It’s hard but you have to do it.”

Billy: “I’ve been participating in the Brandywine choir and musicals ever since I was in fourth grade. With the Brandywine theater class, because of schedule conflicts, this was the only year I could take it. I started playing trombone when I was in sixth grade and I’ve been continuing that ever since. When I get to Purdue, I plan on joining the All-American marching band. I’m looking into choir events, but so far with the band I am still looking forward to continuing that on.”

Connor: “I do football and track as well as 4-H outside of school. I just always tried to remember that no matter what else had to do, my school work had to come first. I had to make sure I was keeping my grades up and doing well academically before anything else.”

What stands out most to you about your Brandywine experience?

Olivia: “Probably just all the friends I made in sports and stuff. I’ve made a lot of just connections with coaches and teammates and I feel like a lot of the fun in high school came from being involved with those teams and the relationships I made from it. I think that’s like the best part when I look back on it.”

Billy: “A memory that replays in my head the most is when the marching band went to one of our 2019 band competitions at Lakeshore High School and took first place in a competition for the first time ever. We’ve gotten division ones at marching festivals but this was the first time we actually got first place at an event. We went to that same event this year and we ended up taking first again as well. Those two memories are the two that I reflect on the most and it was just full of so much fun. We were all crying tears of joy.”

Connor: “The people. My friends and the teachers. There’s a lot of good people here and I always liked going to school every day and seeing them. It was fun.”

What advice would you give to underclassmen right now?

Olivia: “I’d say just find a balance and stay involved. Keeping on top of your work will feel hard and feel like it’s dragging on because it does after so long but if you find a balance you can still have fun and get the actual high school experience that isn’t just the stress and the grudging on.”

Billy: “My advice to them is very stereotypical, but don’t give up. That mentality has actually been with me since fifth grade because my little sister, Elizabeth, has a condition called cerebral palsy and can’t control her muscle movements very well. She can’t walk; she’s non-verbal so my family and I take care of her. There have been countless situations where it’s very stressful. It feels like a high-stakes, fast-paced situation but in the end, I have – in my opinion – the greatest little sister that any person could ever have. Elizabeth has taught me that no matter the scenario, just never give up. It will pay off in some way.”

Connor: “I would say just work hard. I know it’s hard; sometimes you want to just stop doing your work and hang out with your friends or do whatever, but just keep on working, keep on doing your schoolwork and it will pay off.”