Co-Valedictorians Prepare for Graduation

Kimball Union Academy will host its Two Hundred and Seventh Commencement on Saturday, May 27 as it honors the graduating Class of 2023. 
This year the Academy recognizes two members of the class as co-valedictorians, a designation that typically honors the individual who holds the highest academic record in the class. 

“This year, we have two students who, after spending four years here on The Hilltop, have earned an incredible total of 61 As on their report cards, completed 15 AP/AT topics combined with straight As, and earned a 4.0 GPA each and every term of their enrollment at the Academy,” says Academic Dean Jesse Mathers. 
As a result, Fiona Spence ‘23 and Wenshi Zhao ‘23 will jointly hold the honors, and each will address their classmates during the ceremony. 

Spence, of Lyme, New Hampshire, was a Global Scholar and a member of the JV Girls Hockey Team. Next year, she will take a gap year and pursue an internship close to home in the fall at the Welcoming All Nationalities Network, a program that offers guidance to individuals struggling financially through the immigration process, and while there, Spence will receive mentorship from the organization’s lawyer. 

Entering the spring, Spence will voyage to Ireland where she will work with horses, a long-time passion for the graduate before entering the University of St. Andrews in Scotland in Fall 2024.

Spence is grateful for the opportunity KUA has provided her, saying the experience brought about more than just drive for academic success. “We have people who are good at school, but also innovators, writers, athletes, performers, and artists,” she says. “KUA has taught me that there is more to success than just academic achievement.” 

This has provided the recent graduate with a better understanding of finding stability against the demands of life. “I have learned so much about having balance and variety in life in order to be fulfilled and well rounded.”

Co-valedictorian Wenshi Zhao ‘23 of Guangzhou, China, attributes this diversity in KUA offerings, from academic, to artistic to athletic, as the key to his success. “There are often many diverging paths here at KUA and having the same approach is not true for the students and their goals,” says Zhao, who was a member of the Alpine Ski Team, the Varsity Boys Tennis Team, the Chamber Ensemble, captain of the Math Team, and a STEM Scholar. He will attend Amherst College in the fall, bringing with him the skills and talents he acquired while here at KUA. 

Zhao says it’s all about personalizing the notion of working smarter, not harder. “You have to find a way that works for you, finding solutions that make sense for you in order to optimize your strengths,” he says. 

KUA provided him that opportunity to determine his strength and thus, his goals. “There’s a lot of freedom to choose your way and a lot of opportunities to figure out what works for you.”