The two top students at Chelsea High School (CHS) this year have distinguished academic careers, and will be headed to top-flight colleges next fall, but they also both have attended Chelsea Public Schools since pre-kindergarten.
Valedictorian Fazila Nasimi and Salutatorian Stefanie Rodrigues both began their studies at the Early Learning Center (ELC) in Chelsea, and – with the exception of a year in Everett for Rodrigues – both climbed their academic ladders in Chelsea.
Nasimi – who said she never really thought about being the valedictorian – began at the ELC, then went to the Sokolowski School, the Browne Middle School and then CHS.
It was at the Sokolowski in the second grade that Nasimi said the academic spark was lit by Ms. Salvatore.
“I would say in elementary school one of my second grade teachers, Ms. Salvatore, was the first to encourage me to be on this path to succeed,” she said. “Ever since then with the encouragement of my teachers I always wanted to do very well in school. I think she was such a positive person about learning that she made learning fun for me and it made me want to succeed in class.”
Nasimi said she isn’t really interested in literature or arts, but rather will go on the biology and science paths at Tufts University next year. She said she is also thinking about studying a language.
She was helped go in that direction by summer programs at Harvard Medical School and Harvard labs. She said she also took seven Advanced Placement courses while at CHS.
She said her most difficult year, however, was her junior year.
“In my junior year of high school when I took four AP classes, I don’t know how I coped with that,” she said. “It was a lot of work.”
Nasimi is the president of the InterACT Club and participates in National Honor Society, the Book Club, the Culinary Club and Yearbook.
“I think I just want to be in a place where I’m proud of myself and am happy where I am,” she said. “Wherever that is, I’ll just have to see.”
For Rodrigues, she has achieved the Posse Scholarship, and will attend Denison University in Ohio on a full scholarship with the Posse supports.
Rodrigues started at the ELC, went to the Hooks Elementary, the Clark Avenue Middle and CHS. She spent her freshman year at Everett High before coming quickly back to CHS.
She has been very involved in many activities, including cross country and track – where she still holds the school record for the 800m run. She has also been involved in the InterACT club, and said Teacher Ilana Asher has had the greatest influence on her.
Rodrigues said she hopes to become a doctor someday.
“When I was little and I would go to the doctor to get my physical, I would ask so many questions,” she said. “I like what they do. I decided I wanted to do that too. I don’t really enjoy history. I don’t really enjoy literature, but math and science is what I have always been most attracted to.”
Rodrigues said it was her mom, Rosa Lemus, and her dad, Marcos Rodriguez, who most encouraged her through the years to do well – not to mention her brothers, John, Mike and Jason.
“My mom was really the one who was always on me to do my work and to do it well,” she said. “My dad was the one that always motivated me. My brothers basically said if I didn’t go to a good college, they were going to beat me up.”
She also said her friends Adam, Celly and Kaylee were instrumental in keeping her on track.
In a very unique move, Rodrigues was the founder of the Buddy Program – a program she founded in her sophomore year to pair up Hooks Elementary students with high school students in a mentoring relationship.
She said the students from CHS end up being like an older sibling, and she is excited that the program will continue after she leaves.
“I believe I have successfully passed the torch to some new student leaders,” she said.
She also said she would be proud to tell everyone in far-flung Granville, Ohio that she’s from Chelsea.
“When they ask, I’m going to tell everyone I’m from Chelsea, Massachusetts,” she said. “That’s where I’m from.”