WHHS valedictorian headed to Harvard, salutatorian bound for Providence College
WHHS valedictorian headed to Harvard, salutatorian bound for Providence College
Posted on 06/11/2014
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WEST HAVEN, June 10, 2014 —West Haven High School administrators have announced that the Class of 2014 valedictorian is Yingxian Guo, a law major heading to Harvard University, while the salutatorian is Marla Gagne, an English major bound for Providence College’s honors program.

They are set to speak at the WHHS graduation ceremony June 23 and rose to the top of a class that includes around 350 students. Both are extremely active members of the WHHS community, having excelled in the classroom, on sports teams, in the school band, and as members of numerous clubs and the National Honor Society.

“Ying and Marla are truly gifted and well-rounded students who are sure to inspire their future classmates and professors with their love of learning, just as they did for peers and teachers here at West Haven High School,” WHHS Principal Pamela Gardner said. “We’re very proud that such motivated, articulate young women will be representing WHHS at Harvard University and Providence College, and we congratulate them on all of their success.”

Guo, 18, was accepted at both Harvard and Yale University, but decided that being a little farther from home at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, institution would foster a feeling of independence and hone her problem-solving skills. The swim team co-captain, who hopes to later go to law school and either become an attorney or a federal judge, credits her advanced placement (college-level) and honors courses, as well as her teachers, at WHHS with preparing her for college. She took 16 honors and AP courses at WHHS.

“There are challenging classes offered here—like honors and AP classes—and the teachers here not only know the material and are qualified to teach it, but they are very, very passionate about what they teach, and they also care about students,” Guo said. “Also, West Haven High School has so many opportunities outside of just academics-- extracurricular activities, leadership opportunities--so I think that also prepared me a lot for college.”

The talented flute player has been involved in a plethora of activities at WHHS, including the debate team, School Governance Council, school newspaper and marching concert band.

She’s certainly been busy outside of school as well. Guo was chosen to serve as a delegate for the prestigious United States Senate Youth Program and is only second in WHHS history to be selected. As part of the program, Guo spent a week in Washington, D.C., in March getting a behind-the-scenes look at federal government and met President Barack Obama. She also served as an intern in the office of Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, previously attended the Yale University Young Global Scholars summer program, concentrating in politics, law and economics, and had a part-time job at a local restaurant.

Additionally, Guo has begun to make a name for herself in the law arena; she became the statewide winner of the Connecticut Bar Foundation’s 2012-13 Statewide High School Essay Contest, and she interned this year with the New Haven law firm of Lynch, Traub, Keefe & Errante.

She’s hoping to join a debate team and school band at Harvard and is looking forward to selecting classes, living on her own, and pursuing passions she developed in high school. She thanks her counselor, school administrators and her teachers for supporting and believing in her and will miss the community feeling of WHHS.

“In clubs I’ve done, like band or swim team or debate team, there’s always been a really tight-knit group of kids, where by the end, now we’re graduating, I say that I was not only part of groups, but part of families within the school,” Guo added.

Gagne, also 18, at first wasn’t sure about choosing a college in another state, but then decided to take on the adventure of living somewhere new and felt Providence College was the best fit for her after visiting campus, taking a tour and hearing from current students.

The tennis team co-captain, who is known among teammates and fellow band members as a pep talk pro always hoping to motivate others, wants to break into the fields of publishing or journalism. At WHHS, she’s worked as the co-editor of the school paper and yearbook and developed a love for writing.

She’s also played flute for the school band and hopes to be involved with the pep band, newspaper and yearbook at Providence College.

Outside of school, she’s volunteered for Seacrest Retirement Center in West Haven and as a religious education teacher with students in grades six and one at Our Lady of Victory Church. She was also recently recognized for her community service work, leadership, dependability and patriotism by the Daughters of the American Revolution, who honored her with the Good Citizens Award.

She took 15 honors and AP courses in her time at WHHS and agrees that the coursework has given her the skillset and experience she needs to thrive in a college setting.

“I think I’m really prepared. I mean, college is definitely a new experience, so it’s going to be hard at first, I think, for anybody. But I had really challenging courses here and our teachers help develop us as people and students, so I’m ready, I think, to take on the challenge,” Gagne said, adding that, she will “miss everyone here who helped shape who I am today.”

The end of her high school career is bittersweet, she admitted, as she leaves behind the teachers, friends and counselors who helped her along the way.

“I have such a great group of friends, but I’m excited to meet new people, and I know how much I’ve changed from a freshman being really quiet and shy and then really coming into my own here,” Gagne said. “So I’m really excited to have a new experience and have that happen for me in college.”


Contact: Communications Director Susan Misur, 203-937-4300 X7114; susan.misur@whschools.org