Student spotlight: Truckee High’s co-valedictorians look back and step forward | SierraSun.com

Student spotlight: Truckee High’s co-valedictorians look back and step forward

Jason ShuehSierra Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. andamp;#8212; This year it came down to two students, both indisputably high achievers, both a bit reminiscent of their childhood in Truckee; yet, both intensely eager to hear high school’s closing bells in wait, of course, of yet larger bells: College.Natalie Cutler, 17, and Annika Deurlington, 18, are co-valedictorians for the 2011 Truckee High School graduating class.Cutler will attend Brown University in Rhode Island while Deurlington is still contemplating a variety of California universities and a few out-of-state options such as Hendrix College in Arkansas and Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.However, before college, both young ladies plan to travel, with Deurlington to take an interlude in Argentina through the Rotary Youth Exchange program. Cutler plans to traverse parts of either South or Central America in a home stay Spanish Program for the first part of the year, before traveling to Europe and then either visiting family in Vietnam or researching the Pygmies people in Uganda, Africa.For both soon-to-be graduates, the indefinite potential of the future has created a definitive enthusiasm for the present.andamp;#8220;It’s exciting, weird and nerve racking because I’ve only ever been in Truckee my whole life. I can’t really imagine what’s out there waiting,andamp;#8221; said Cutler, who then added jokingly: andamp;#8220;I’m mostly done with high school.andamp;#8221;Like Cutler, Deurlington said she is still trying to process the transition andamp;#8212; the end of one chapter opening so many others.andamp;#8220;It hasn’t quite set in andamp;#8212; I think because of the lousy weather andamp;#8212; but I think I’m really looking forward to moving onward … it’s been fun but I think I’m also ready to have more independence,andamp;#8221; Deurlington said.Memories from their time in Truckee are numerous. Deurlington said she’ll miss the outdoors, running, swimming, biking, the community she’s grown up in. Cutler said she’ll miss the sense of place she has felt in Truckee, the comfort of familiar surroundings, the warmth of friends and family andamp;#8212; and playing Lumiere, the candelabra, in Truckee High’s musical andamp;#8220;Beauty and the Beast.andamp;#8221;This is in addition to the shared memory of Susan Lowder, a science teacher at Truckee High.andamp;#8220;She’s just so enthusiastic about what she teaches … I never thought I was a science person before I met her,andamp;#8221; Cutler said. andamp;#8220;She is just so happy to share everything about the material and make it as exciting as she can.Deurling-ton agreed: andamp;#8220;Mrs. Lowder is so much fun, and she makes being a dork cool. She’s just a great teacher and reaches out to all the students.andamp;#8221;

Interests of study for the valedictorians vary. Deurlington wants to explore studies in neuroscience, math and a topic very close to home andamp;#8212; education. Cutler is interested in business and international affairs.Cutler’s mother was born in Vietnam. While Natalie is considering a study in business, she said international affairs drew her attention because of her love of cultures and different ways of life.andamp;#8220;I love seeing different people in different countries and seeing how they thrive,andamp;#8221; Cutler said.Deurlington said she was drawn to math because of her aptitude for numbers, she chose neuroscience due to fascination with emotions and their link to brain chemistry, and education andamp;#8212; not for its perfection andamp;#8212; but for its imperfection.andamp;#8220;I think the educational system could use some revamping … there needs to be changes made. I could see myself being a part of that change,andamp;#8221; Deurlington said.It should be pointed out, however, that neither valedictorian is decided on a firm direction, a major or any specific course of study.It’s something, they said, will come in time.andamp;#8220;I think college is all about opening doors to opportunities you haven’t had before and exploring things you wouldn’t have had a chance to look at,andamp;#8221; Cutler said.Choosing to go to Brown, Cutler said, was a result of this desire to explore.andamp;#8220;The very final choice was between Yale, Brown and Tulane University. I ended up choosing Brown because for one they have an open curriculum,andamp;#8221; she said. andamp;#8220;Besides … your major or concentration, you don’t have to take other requirements, so it really gives you an opportunity to explore.andamp;#8221;As Saturday’s graduation nears, Deurlington said her family is happy for her, and her parents are helping her to prepare for Argentina.andamp;#8220;They’re great parents I love them. They’ve been very supportive,andamp;#8221; she said.Cutler said her parents are excited for her while her brother, 13, and sister, 16, are still digesting her move.andamp;#8220;They are already fighting over my room, but my sister says she’s going to miss me and I’m sure my brother will too andamp;#8212; at some point,andamp;#8221; Cutler said laughing. andamp;#8220;Deep down there’s some love there.andamp;#8221;