In talking with Chelsea High School (CHS) Valedictorian Sara Beqo about her career at the high school, it readily becomes clear that sports have made a strong impression on her life, and will continue to do so throughout the rest of her life.
Beqo will graduate at the top of the Class of 2015 this coming Sunday, June 7, as part of annual commencement exercises in the gymnasium at Chelsea High School.
Beqo has played basketball at CHS all four years, but said she has really excelled in the track program – being a captain this year and running her strongest event in the 800 meters.
“Running is the most bittersweet thing,” she said. “There are days when I am out swinging my arms and running and wondering why I’m doing it. In the end, it’s always worth it…In track, it’s a sport, but it’s man versus man and man versus self at the same time. It’s a mind game. It’s the same as in the classroom. In academics, you’re getting on the line and competing with others, you just don’t see it the same way.”
Beqo found out on Tuesday morning that she was the top of the class, as the competition in the classroom was tough with this year’s crop of students. She said she was very excited and her parents, Alfred and Zane Beqo of Cary Avenue, were ecstatic.
Beqo, 18, and her two older sisters, CHS alumna Anelsa and Belinda Beqo, came to the United States from Albania when Sara Beqo was only three. They settled in Chelsea and never moved away, with Beqo attending the Sokolowski School, the Clark Avenue Middle School and CHS.
Beqo said as of now she is working on her graduation speech, trying to find just the right amount of humor and seriousness, but her future plans involve going on to Boston University.
“I am going to BU in the fall to study athletic training,” she said. “I want to be the person who would provide individual care on the bench and in pre-game and post-game. Hopefully, I’d start small with that and move up to doing that for a professional team. That’s the goal.”
She said she is very excited about BU, and that it was her dream school.
“BU was just perfect for me,” she said. “I always wanted to go there. I also wanted to go to Duke, but I didn’t get in. BU, however, was my dream school because it was always perfect for me. So, it was a dream come true.”
She will get assistance from the Chelsea High Scholarship, as well as a partial scholarship from the Yawkey Foundation.
However, the MGH Youth Scholars program will pick up the rest of the balance, and that program has been a fixture in her life since she was a sophomore.
“They provide help when your in school and mentor you and prepare you for college,” she said. “They also help you during and after college as well. They’ve been a presence in my life for several years, as well as other kids from Revere and Charlestown and East Boston.”
Beqo said she believes she is ready for a school like BU. She said it is humbling being the best student in your school, and then going to college with a whole class of students from all over the world who were also the best in their school.
“I always go back to sports and track,” she said. “You have regular track meets and you run against a few people and it’s over. Then when you go to state relays, there are so many people and everyone knows what they’re doing. It hits you that you might be good, but so is everyone else. Every runner is strong. You have to know what you can do and not be discouraged. When I went to BU for a visit, everyone was as prepared as I was.”
The difference, she said, has been the CHS experience and teachers.
“The help is what makes the difference,” she said. “It takes a village to raise a child and I have experienced that here and have had terrific teachers. If I didn’t have the help I got from my teachers and coaches, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”
In particular, she pointed out basketball coach Perry Brandalise and Track coaches Amanda Alpert and Rebecca Hayes – as well as former coach Kim Huffer.
“I’ve been with my basketball coach since 8th grade and they’ve all sculpted me in so many ways,” she said. “The coaches here are amazing.”