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Joyce Endee

KHS Valedictorian and Salutatorian are preparing for take-off

Katherine Gustafson and George Weigold

KHS Valedictorian Katie Gustafson and Salutatorian George Weigold are ready to take flight from the Valley and they’re both excited about their landing spots. Katie is headed for a career on stage, beginning with New York University’s theatre program. George wants to build bridges and roads and we know he’ll be one of the best after his time at Princeton University. Have a great trip, you two! We’ll miss you! Don’t forget to write! Sarah Earle. (click for larger version)
June 04, 2009
George Weigold, Kennett's salutatorian, admits that he, too, has done work in some unusual environments. "This morning I wrote my National Honor Society induction speech at McDonalds," he laughs.

Time is precious when you're as occupied as these two 18-year-olds have been over the past four years. Katy, who loves English in school, dedicates most of her free time to community theatre, like the plays she does with M&D Productions.

"My most common excuse is, 'I can't, I have rehearsal'," she says wryly. "It's a lot of late nights, and then you still have threer hours of homework to do when you get home, but it's worth it." She is also the Vice President of the student body, a member of Key Club, Select Choir and the National Honor Society.

George, who excels at math and physics, spends most of his free time playing hockey and baseball for Kennett. He's been captain of the hockey team for two years now.

"It's a three season commitment," he says. "It's tough, because sometimes I have to leave early for away games. That takes away from time to do homework." On top of that, George also is a member of the National Honor Society and the French Club.

For their Ear interview, Katie, from Conway, and George, from Bartlett, sit together in a Kennett High conference room. They've both been pulled out of classes that couldn't sound more suited to them: Katie from creative writing and George from CAD, or computer aided drafting. "People always told me that I'd be valedictorian," says Katie, who received the freshman trophy for highest GPA four years ago. "But I always thought it would be George, because he's so smart."

"Yeah, but you dominate me in English," George says quickly. Then he smiles and groans. "Are we going to do that again?" he asks, referring to an earlier interview where they both cede the title of smartest to each other. They laugh.

The yin and yang of it all

While Katie and George share humility and the drive to succeed, it's clear that their personalities are otherwise dissimilar.

"My freshman, sophomore and junior years, I was a ball of stress," says Katie. Her mother, Karen Gustafson, is one of her biggest role models. "She deals with my craziness and my high stress level that I bring home. Like if I can't find my sock and I'm screaming about it. She's always been there for me."

George on the other hand, is a laid back type of guy. "I've never felt pressure to do anything I didn't want to," he says. "I never felt that committed to school. I just did my best to learn all I could."

George's role model, his grandfather George, lives down the street. "He's just the guy I can go to for anything," says George, who is actually George IV. If George forgets something for sports practice, his grandfather will bring it to him. "He'd do anything for anybody," he says.

As for teachers that have been instrumental in Katie and George's school career, Katie says they are innumerable.

"I admire so many of the faculty at Kennett," she says. "John Weitz (world language) and David Chamberlain (history) were extremely helpful and taught me a lot."

George agrees there are many great teachers, though today he has one in mind. "Mrs. Watson (guidance) got me into college," he says emphatically. "She guided me through everything. It was a very involved application process and she went beyond what she needed to do."

NYU and Princeton bound

Come fall, both Katie and George will be heading to prestigious colleges outside of New Hampshire. Katie will attend the Tisch Institute of Performing Arts at New York University to study drama, where the entrance application involved more than the regular essays and test scores. Katie had to audition. "I've never been so nervous in my life," she admits. "I had to do my happiest moment and my saddest moment. I was in tears by the end. It was an emotional roller coaster!"

George is going to Princeton to study civil engineering. "Right now, that's the only kind of engineering I know," he says. "I just want to build roads and bridges." He admits there was no special admission process like Katie's, but his exceptional SAT scores probably helped him get in.

Revving their engines

As this school year comes to a close, both Katie and George are looking towards the future.

"I used to hate the fact that I lived in a small town," Katie says, whose dream is to have a regular role on Saturday Night Live. "It's so hard for acting. But now I'm getting pretty nostalgic. The city is going to be weird."

George, on the other hand, says he's always loved the Valley and never wanted to leave. "I got into Dartmouth first," he says, "and I was like, wow, I'll get to stay in New Hampshire. But then Princeton turned out to be a better fit. I'll definitely be back a lot, though."

As for the long term, however, the Mt. Washington Valley might be relinquishing these talented youngsters for good. When asked if they'll move back here eventually, Katie is quick to answer. "I don't plan on it," she says decidedly. "Conway isn't the place to do theatre." George pauses. "It'll be tough to get a good engineering job here," he admits.

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