Officials at East Shore Middle School are quite proud: Three of the school’s former students went on to be valedictorian of their respective high schools this year.
Nicholas Bilcheck was named the class of 2014 valedictorian at Notre Dame High School of West Haven, and Matthew Lasky was named valedictorian at Notre Dame High School of Fairfield.
That news put a smile on the face of Catherine Williams, principal at East Shore Middle School, who pointed out that a third member of that particular class, Erin Dunn, was the valedictorian this year at Foran High School.
All three students were the type who had a “thirst for knowledge,” Williams said.
“I’m extremely proud of them,” she said, adding that teachers noticed in them the drive and desire to learn and strong parent and family support.
“In middle school they had that concentration, that motivation,” Williams said. “They had that perseverance to be all they could be.”
The three weren’t necessarily buddy-buddy in middle school, as they were not all on the same school teams, but they knew and respected each other.
The boys ran in the same circles for a time: They played baseball together in the Milford International Little League and basketball in middle school. They also attended the Cal Ripken Baseball camp in Maryland as youths.
“In high-school the boys took different educational paths and went to different Notre Dames and parted ways,” said Matthew’s mother, Debbie. “But they do see each other once a year at their sisters’ dance recital, as the boys’ sisters dance together.”
Matthew said that when he entered Notre Dame of Fairfield as a freshman he set two goals: One was to be valedictorian, and the other was to see a baseball banner hung on the school wall. He accomplished both. The banner became a reality after the varsity baseball team, for which he played four years and served as captain his senior year, made it to the South West Conference Baseball Champions this past year, the first time in school history.
In his valedictory speech, Matthew read the poem “The Man in the Glass” by Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr.
“When you get what you want in your struggle for self; And the world makes you king for a day; Just go to the mirror and look at yourself; And see what that man has to say.”
He told his classmates that the poem is a reminder to live with integrity and always to be honest with oneself.
“We must not let others deter us from what we want in life, for it is what we already have that will lead us to accomplishing our dreams and success, whether that success is spiritual, physical or emotional,” he said.
In the fall Matthew, son of Debbie and Rick Lasky, will attend Bard College and will play Division III baseball. He received many awards in high school, including the United States Presidents Award for Educational Excellence, CIAC Scholar Athlete Award, St. Thomas Aquinas Award and the Governors Scholar Finalist Award.
He was National Honor Society president in 2014, Spanish Honor Society president in 2014, and served on the Campus Ministry and Key Club.
Nicholas didn’t make a speech at his graduation, as the valedictorian at Notre Dame in West Haven doesn’t automatically become a graduation speaker. But he said that if he had shared a message with his class, it would have been on the theme of success.
“I think anything can be achieved if you have the effort and the support,” he said.
Nicholas credited his parents, Jill and Christian Bilcheck, and his teachers with motivating him to learn. He said his parents instilled the desire for knowledge in him, and then his fifth grade teachers and then his middle school teachers built on that. He maintained that drive in high school.
Bilcheck, who will be attending Bucknell University on an academic scholarship, was a first honors student every term at Notre Dame and was a four-year Christian Student Mission Club member and co-president his last school year.
A member of the National Honor Society and Latin Honor Society, Nicholas was named the Latin Award Winner as a junior and was a Connecticut Association of Schools Scholars Candidate. He also was a key contributor to the Math Team. Outside of Notre Dame, he volunteers at the Beth-El Soup Kitchen and the American Diabetes Association.
He received a number of other awards during high school, including the Superintendent Summa Scholar Award and the Yale Book Award.
At Foran High School’s graduation, valedictorian Erin Dunn told fellow graduates that now is their time to begin ushering change and progress into their world, carrying on massive advances their generation has seen in technology, communication and social media.
Changes have been monumental, she said, noting that in their lifetime she and her classmates have seen the first African American president, and she commented that they may see the first female president before too long.
“Always do your best at what you do,” Erin said, but she urged them to temper their strides with balance and to remember to relax at times and to have fun.
At the news that three people from her East Shore class were valedictorians this year, Erin said she remembers the class having a number of dedicated and driven students.
She singled out one of her own East Shore teachers, Donna Wasilewski, as someone who encouraged her to push beyond her limits.
“She was very encouraging, and pushed us to do our best,” Erin said.
Erin, the daughter of Robert and Bonnie Dunn, pursued the most rigorous courses offered at Foran over the past four years, completing eight Advanced Placement (AP) courses and all other courses in the honors level track. She was named a National Merit Commended Scholar by The College Board last fall and has received numerous academic medals for achievement in academics throughout the past four years.
Erin will attend the University of Connecticut in the fall, where she will enter the Honors Program to major in political science. Erin would like to pursue a career in Washington, D.C., and work as a senatorial adviser.