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Valedictorian Cameron Cordaway is off to represent East Haven High School at the University of Connecticut, where she will bring lessons learned from pain and triumphs at school. (Photo courtesy Cameron Cordaway )
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East Haven High School (EHHS) valedictorian Cameron Cordaway is taking lessons of love, pain, and patience to the University of Connecticut. She plans to study chemistry on the pre-med track, with the goal of becoming a pediatrician.
Still, she says, “I have a feeling that might change,” Cameron admits.
A career as a pediatrician has always enticed Cameron as it matched her interests from a young age. Even so, she worries that it might not keep her attention going forward, so she’s keeping her options open.
“I’ve always just wanted to work with kids…so I’ve always said pediatrician,” Cameron says. “I’ve always loved math and science. I took chemistry for the first time junior year and it just came to me.”
To support her interest in working with kids, Cameron started a job at an East Haven day care center, Cathy’s Clubhouse in November 2018. She says one of the best parts of her job there is building a connection with the kids.
“When you first get there, they have no idea who you are but as the weeks go by, the kids start learning your name. They start learning things about you and you start learning about them,” she says.
She was the treasurer for EHHS’s branch of HOSA—Future Health Professionals (known as Healthcare Occupations Students of America even though it’s an international organization).
As a part of HOSA, Cameron and other students competed with health related presentations for the opportunity to present again at the international level. This year, EHHS sent seven students, including Cameron, to their summer event in Florida.
Closer to home, Cameron says she was recruited to be treasurer for the class of 2019 by the class advisor, Spanish teacher Carla Marsico, when not enough people were running for the position.
“I was the only freshman in [her] class. She was like, ‘no kids signed up, I need you to be an officer,’” Cameron says. “But I loved it.”
Cameron ended up sticking with the job for the rest of her high school career, encouraging students to pay their class dues and select prom venues.
As class officers, they planned pep rallies, senior activities, and homecoming with, Cameron says, mixed success.
But during her senior year, EHHS principal Vincent DeNuzzo engaged the class officers in a new program.
“He actually gave the class officers a role…he would have us meet during advisory and we started planning pep rallies,…core values day,” Cameron says. “He wants to make the class officer role more of a role. He really inspired us to do things to lead the school.”
This became important in April 2019, Cameron says, when the school decided to lock most of the bathrooms in response to reports of vaping. Students returned to EHHS after spring break to find the change and were not happy about the added inconvenience created by closing most of the bathrooms.
To address student complaints, DeNuzzo called the class officers together for a meeting to discuss students’ concerns and to find a solution to the problem.
“He really included us because we’re the people who represent the student body in the decision,” she says. “We decided to open basically all the bathrooms but just have staff supervision on all of them….We came to that conclusion together.”
This decision was followed up by an officer-led school assembly during which the officers had the chance to explain to their peers how and why the compromise was reached.
Cameron says her peers liked hearing from the officers. She says DeNuzzo’s plan to involve the officers is a good one and thinks it will continue.
“I liked his vision that he had our last year,” Cameron says. “I’m a little sad that it happened so late.”
She says the school community stuck together through hard times, like when her classmate Nick Vessichio was severely injured by a fallen tree in July 2017, and in good times like when the volleyball team made it to the state championship in Cameron’s junior year.
“I’m going to miss that sense of community and that sense of togetherness, rallying around each other in times of pain and triumph,” Cameron says.
At graduation, Cameron bundled together her experiences together with a speech that mirrored Ariana Grande’s song “thank u, next” which, Cameron says, is about lessons learned about love, patience and pain.
“[For] love, I talked about the different relationships we’d formed with people and with sports…[For] patience, I talked about how we waited in line for the bathroom when it got locked…[For] pain, I talked about Nick Vessichio and his accident two years ago,” Cameron says. “I think it went pretty well.”
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