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For Guilford High School (GHS) Class of 2018 Valedictorian Faren Roth, finding something you like to do, and having fun doing it, has been the key to her success. Faren, who will attend Yale University in the fall, will give her valedictorian’s speech to the GHS Class of 2018 during graduation on the Guilford Green on Friday, June 22. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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She’s Connecticut’s 2018 individual épée state champion, valedictorian of the Guilford High School (GHS) Class of 2018, and an incoming member of the Yale University Class of 2022. Looking back, in her very humble manner, over an extraordinary senior year capped by some incredible achievements, Faren Roth says the key to her success has always been finding something she likes to do, and having fun while doing it.
That’s her advice for any aspiring valedictorians out there, too.
“It’s more important to really like what you’re learning and have fun with what you’re doing,” says Faren. “And then, if you end up doing really well, and you end up being valedictorian, that’s awesome, but if you don’t, you can still do awesome things.”
Faren’s academic arc at GHS followed that advice and had plenty of room to flourish thanks to a wealth of Advanced Placement (AP) classes for her to enjoy.
“I took one AP class my sophomore year that I really loved; it was AP Chemistry. I had an awesome time and after that, it was mostly APs” says Faren, who went on to earn certificates of excellence in AP Calculus AB, AP Chemistry, AP Statistics, Honors English, U.S. History, and French 3.
In fact, if it wasn’t for her having fun in AP Calculus AB class this year, Faren wouldn’t have picked up the trumpet.
“I started music when most Guilford kids do, in 5th grade, and I did French horn all the way up to this year. I love band,” says Faren.
But this year, she couldn’t play French horn with the wind ensemble due to the ensemble schedule overlapping with AP Calculus AB.
“So I ended up doing concert band, instead of wind ensemble. I’ve always wanted to change instruments to try something new, so I played the trumpet this year,” says Faren. “It was really fun! You get to play the melody, which is cool. I still like French horn more, but it can be stressful! When you’re playing in symphony, French horn gets some really hard parts, and the strings are really quiet, so you stand out.”
Speaking of standing out, on June 22, Faren will be standing in front of a capacity crowd on the Guilford Green to give her valedictorian’s speech. While her speech [at press time] still needed to be reviewed and approved by the school administration, she notes that many student graduation speakers around the country, herself included, have signed a student-led online pledge to “Donate: 60” during their speech.
“It’s a scripted 60-second statement that’s mostly about reminding kids our age to keep voting and play a part in the world,” says Faren. “It’s not about all the dividing things, it’s more about making sure young people get involved and stay involved.”
On March 14, she joined her classmates as part of the nationwide walk-out for school safety, one month after the high school shooting tragedy in Parkland, Florida. As co-vice president of GHS Student Senate, Faren helped convince the school’s administration that the protest should be organized by independent students, after the Student Senate was offered the opportunity to work with the school’s administration to organize a walk-out.
“We ended up telling [the principal] ‘No’ because if it was run through the school, we can’t make it the kind of political movement that it was. Originally, we said ‘Yes,’ but we didn’t know much about it. Then we went and learned about it, and we came back and presented our argument about why [Student Senate] shouldn’t be involved, and then [the principal] agreed to that,” says Faren, who was also co-vice president of the GHS Debate Team.
She says the consideration given to students’ opinions by the GHS administration, faculty, and staff is a component of a school community that’s made her high school experience enjoyable.
“I feel like it’s a great place to go to high school,” says Faren. “The community’s really accepting here, for the most part, and I think over all it’s a really nice place to be.”
Community is something she also sees in her future at Yale, which she first visited as a member of the GHS Yale Physics Olympics team (2017-’18) and again during Bulldog Days for accepted students this spring.
“I really love the community at Yale,” Faren says. “All the kids there seem really nice. Everyone that I met when I went to visit was really passionate and talked about how nice everyone is, and that’s really important to me, because I don’t want a competitive school. I don’t think I’m really a competitive person, for the most part.”
At Yale, Faren is looking at the field of science for her major, with her current interests leading her toward studying astrophysics or cognitive science.
“I’m thinking about doing astrophysics because I’m interested in astronomy and I’ve always liked space. Since I was younger, I’ve always liked the idea of finding aliens and extraterrestrial life! I haven’t done any [astrophysics] yet, but I like the idea and the philosophy of it, so I’m hoping that I like it when I actually take it,” says Faren. “And recently, I also thought about doing cognitive science, because it combines a lot of things I’m interested in like psychology, neuroscience, and linguistics. So I’m going to take classes and weigh those two [majors].”
Some of the academic accolades Faren gathered during her GHS career include the Governor’s Scholar Award, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Medal, and Cornell Book Award. The scholar athlete is also vice president of the National Honor Society and co-president of the French Honor Society. As a senior, she ranked as a National Merit Scholar finalist, received the Superintendent’s Award and Rotary Youth Leadership Award, and was named a 2018 CIAC scholar athlete.
Faren has been playing soccer and tennis since she was a youngster and continued the sports at GHS. This year, she was tennis co-captain and finished a high school tennis career that included rising to become a state finalist (2014 and 2016) and State Open qualifier (2015, 2017, 2018). In soccer, Faren was twice recognized with the team Sportsmanship Award (2014 and 2018) and was a part of the SCC Conference Champion team in 2014.
As for fencing, that was another case of trying something out, liking it, and having fun while learning, says Faren, who was GHS fencing captain in 2017-’18.
“I started fencing my freshman year in high school. I actually just did it for fun. All of the kids are super nice and the coaches are awesome,” she says.
The sport breaks out competitors by weapon type. Many state champions are often nationally ranked athletes who have been competing in the sport since youth. Faren found her niche with épée.
“There are a lot of nationally ranked [fencers] in the other weapons. Épée still has lots of good fencers, but it wasn’t as impossible to win,” says Faren. “The reason I won the state championship is because it’s kind of small sport, with no divisions. It’s just all of the schools in Connecticut.”
Faren was also named to the All State First Team this season. During her four years with GHS fencing, Faren also received All State Recognition (2017) and earned the team’s MVP Award (2018) and Sportsmanship Award (2014).
Faren hopes to continue some club or intramural sports at Yale, not only to keep up her skills, but because she’s found that, for her, a full schedule helps her achieve her academic goals.
“I feel like when I have sports, I’m much better at school, because it forces me to manage my time. I’m not the best at time management!” Faren says, laughing.
She also likes to deeply consider her work before diving in.
“All of the assignments I would do best on were ones where I would think and think for a while, and waited until I found something I really liked” she says. “I didn’t want to do the first thing I thought of, because I wanted to like what I was working on.”
For several months now, she’s been thinking about what it will be like to leave GHS and move on.
“When I found out where I was going [to college], I got really excited and wanted to graduate and get there. Now, it’s really strange that we’re actually leaving; and it is really sad to leave everybody,” says Faren. “I really liked high school a lot, and I definitely want to thank all my teachers. They’ve all been really great.”
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