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Liza Townsend and Katherine Badger take top honors for Kennett Class of 2010

Valedictorian and Salutatorian at Kennett High School

Liza Townsend, valedictorian (left) and Katherine Badger, salutatorian of the Kennett High School Class of 2010. Sara Young-Knox/Mountain Ear Photo).
April 29, 2010
Both young ladies bring an impressive list of accomplishments to their roles as the school's top students. Liza, who has been accepted at Boston University, Northeastern University, the University of Delaware, the University of Vermont, Union College and Keene State College, is in the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society, serving as president in those societies. She participates in both varsity indoor and outdoor track, this year as team captain. She is on the waiting lists of Bowdoin College, Brown University and McGill University. As a junior, she received the Wellesley College Book Award for exceptional scholarship and excellence in extracurricular activities.

Katherine will be attending Smith College in Northampton, Mass. Last year she received the Smith College Book Award, given by Smith College clubs to high school juniors for academic excellence, leadership qualities, and concern for others. Smith offers a challenging and diverse curriculum and, along with Wellesley College, is one of the Seven Sisters, the female equivalents to the once all-male Ivy League schools.

Liza and Katherine are both active in the Kennett High Key Club. Katherine serves as the club's public relations officer. Katherine has greeted children and their families as an elf with the Polar Express and has participated in Jen's Friends Hike for Cancer annually since 1996. She has volunteered with the Jackson Summer Program for elementary school children, Angels and Elves, the Red Cross Blood Drive, Loki Clan Wolf Refuge and the Obama presidential campaign.

In her 'free' time, Liza has tutored peers in math and Spanish, helped out in various roadside clean-ups, and volunteered with the Tamworth Youth Group as a server at the Dinner Bell. She works as a lunch cook and waitress at The Other Store in Tamworth during the summer and on weekends. She started at Chequers Villa last summer as a hostess and busser and is in training for a waitress position for this summer.

Throughout their high school careers, Liza and Katherine have won numerous academic awards.

Among Katherine's other awards are the Rotary Club Award, and awards for excellence in Biology, French and Algebra. She is also on the yearbook staff and has been an anchor on the school's TV show. She participated in the school's varsity dance team for three years and works with children at Kennett's Little Eagle Preschool.  

During her years at Kennett, Liza has won awards for excellence in Geometry, Physical Science and Art I. In her freshman and sophomore years she won the Outstanding Academic Achievement awards. As a senior, she was named a New Hampshire Scholar Athlete.

On Sunday the two very busy young ladies took time off from all their activities to sit for their first interview as this year's top graduating seniors. On the surface, their paths to success so far have been very similar, but subtle differences soon emerge.

Liza says she was always academically inclined. "I was that kid who loved school, who loved the teachers." She says she liked the small-school atmosphere at the Kenneth A. Brett School. It allowed her to explore the world from a safe place.

It also allowed her to start to learn Spanish while still in primary school, continuing through high school at Kennett. That Spanish helped her out during the fall of her junior year, when, as an AFS exchange student, she spent the semester with a local family in Guayaquil, Ecuador, attending the local public high school.

With other exchange students, she did community service projects, worked in an orphanage and in a day care, and helped put on a Christmas party for a poor village two hours from Guayaquil. She somehow found time to assist her high school English instructor in teaching English to adults.

Asked if she encountered any challenges understanding the Spanish spoken by the Ecuadorians, she replied that she did indeed. "The accents are so heavy, especially up in the mountains," she replies. Her years of Spanish instruction prepared her well for making small talk, but understanding the fast-paced conversations, especially with teenagers who mixed in a lot of slang, was very challenging.

She did well enough in the Ecuadorian high school to maintain her high grade average. She says that in that South American country students are put on academic tracks, and that she and other AFS students were put on the computer track.

"At least the computer programs were in English," she smiles. As to her other classes, she says she did best in math, and knew short-cuts that the other students didn't, which impressed them. "I could do that there because it's all numbers and numbers are the same in Spanish."

In college she's planning to major in International Relations and Spanish.

Katherine, who attended Jackson Grammar School, loved the flexibility in programs that the small, close-knit school offered. Unlike Liza, though, she says she was not always a disciplined student. "I started in middle school," she says, referring to her time at the Josiah Bartlett School. "I felt more challenged."

Katherine has traveled extensively with her family, from Australia to Kenya, and like Liza, was an AFS exchange student. Last summer she spent a month with a host family in Italy. This summer she's taking her Jackson family back to Italy to spend a couple weeks with her host family, following a two-week stop in France where her father wants to go hang-gliding.

She plans to major in Psychology and Early Childhood, getting a liberal arts education for her undergraduate degree before going on and getting her masters in Pediatric Occupational Therapy. Working at Little Eagles, and earlier job-shadowing at Children Unlimited, has been very gratifying, she says.

"I love little kids, preschoolers are my favorite. I love seeing them grow, I love just seeing them learn," Katherine says. During her own childhood, her mother worked as a physical therapist at Children Unlimited.

She and Liza met in high school, becoming math and science buddies. The two explain that they were often paired together when working on class projects in those two subject areas, that they both like creating art, whether with a pencil, paint brush, or camera, and both enjoy reading fiction in their spare time.

Katherine sees the parallels in their lives. They both have younger sisters who are freshmen this year, both have parents who enjoy outdoor recreation. But she sees the differences, too, joking, "Our lives started out pretty much the same and then I decided not to be athletic." She did, however, play soccer for three years and softball one year.

Asked the required "who was your favorite teacher?" query, they diverge, too. Katherine says that former teacher Mr. (David) Chamberlain, who taught A.P. U.S. History, was her favorite. "It was like a college class," she says, adding that he expected his students to complete reading assignments and absorb the material well enough to discuss and debate it in class. She was fascinated, too, at his command of the facts and issues, as he could give long — and interesting — lectures without the aid of any notes.

Liza answers that A.P. Biology teacher Mr. (Jack) Hadam was her favorite teacher. Known for his high standards for lab reports, Liza says he is one of those teachers whose methods you may not appreciate at the time, but you're thankful for later.

"He was big on you being confident in yourself. He definitely made me think more than anyone else," she says. She appreciated, too, the college recommendation he wrote for her, which was more specific in detailing her academic abilities.

One of Liza's athletic abilities is rock and ice climbing. Her father is climbing manager at Eastern Mountain Sports and she has been climbing since she was around five.  

Liza says that she doesn't think that she would have been disciplined to do well enough to be a top student at Kennett if the family had had a television.

"I completely agree with that," agrees Katherine, whose family TV only plays DVDs and is not hooked up to cable.

What is clear at the end of the interview, as the talk runs to favorite authors and the pluses and minuses of New Hampshire author Jodi Picoult's books, is that though these two young women bring their own personalities to what and how they learn, they are united in their thirst for learning, united in their desire to be intellectually challenged by the world out there waiting for them.

In the meantime, there're speeches to prepare. Graduation is on Saturday, June 19.

"I was hoping for third," Katherine jests, "so I wouldn't have to give a speech."

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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