Thursday, September 23, 2021

Person of the Week

Shadman Proud to be Valedictorian of ‘Resilient’ NBHS Class of 2021


Ranked number one out of 141 academic classmates, Caroline Shadman is the North Branford High School Class of 2021 valedictorian. She plans to attend UConn as a music education major. Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound

Ranked number one out of 141 academic classmates, Caroline Shadman is the North Branford High School Class of 2021 valedictorian. She plans to attend UConn as a music education major. Photo by (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)

North Branford High School (NBHS) Class of 2021 Valedictorian Caroline Shadman recalls exactly what she was thinking at the start of her first day of high school four years ago.

“My mom and I were sitting at the kitchen table, and I asked her what the number-one spot was called, and she said, ‘Valedictorian.’ And I said, ‘I want to be that,’” says Caroline. “So it’s kind of been a goal, since freshman year.”

On June 14, ranked number-one out of 141 classmates, Caroline donned the honorary valedictorian’s medal and joined the NBHS Class of 2021 at the June 14 graduation ceremonies (after press time for this story).

To make it to the top, Caroline studied hard, applied her remarkable academic talent (she especially enjoys STEM-oriented learning focused in science and math), and took advantage of signing up for honors classes and a number of the Advanced Placement (AP) courses offered at NBHS.

“I’m glad that I stayed in North Branford and in the public school system. The academic opportunities have been great. There are so many AP classes that we can take, and the honors courses really pushed us. They really challenged me, which is something I was looking forward to when going into high school from middle school,” she says.

In her valedictorian’s speech to her classmates, Caroline said she wanted to emphasize “resilience.”

“Our new school acronym this year is SOAR, so I wanted to have it tied to that,” she says.

The SOAR acronym supports the concept of students as Socially responsible contributors; Open-minded, engaged citizens; Achievement-focused students; and Resilient life-long learners.

“I talk a lot about resilience—I think I say it 14 times in my speech—and how we especially needed it, given this past year. We needed resilience to get through the year and to keep pushing through for our futures,” says Caroline.

On a personal note, as she leaves NBHS, Caroline also thanks the many educators who helped her to rise to the top of her class academically.

“They pushed me in honors classes that were already challenging and encouraged me to take AP classes even though my schedule was so busy, because they knew the outcome would be really great in pushing us toward our futures,” says Caroline.

Caroline was inducted into the NBHS chapter of the National Honor Society her sophomore year, going on to be elected vice president this year, and is also a member of the Spanish Honor Society. Her long list of academic awards include the Yale Club of New Haven Book Award (2020), PDK Kappans Endowed Scholarship (2021), Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish (2021), North Branford Public Schools (NBPS) Superintendent’s Award, North Branford Scholarship Association (NBSA) Frank and Brenda Karsmarski Award (2021); NBHS End-of-Year Highest Academic Achievement; Science Honors Award (grades 9, 10 and 11), English Honors Award (grades 9, 10), Math Honors Award (9) and North Branford Rotary Club Student of the Month.

But wait, there’s more: Caroline is also the 2021 recipient of the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) Outstanding Arts Award and the Musical Accomplishments Louis Armstrong Jazz Award (given for musicianship, character, and individual creativity) and was selected by the CT Music Educators Association as a two-time member of the (CMEA) Southern Region High School Music Festival audition based regional ensemble (earning Highest scoring trombonist in 2020) and a 2021 CMEA All-States Music Festival selectee, a 2019 and 2020 CT Shoreline Music Festival select ensemble member (by teacher recommendation), the recipient of the 2021 CT Elizabeth Sonier Grant, and recipient of the NBSA Award sponsored by Linda Humphrey’s Excellence in Music.

If you’re sensing music may play a part in Caroline’s future, you are correct. She will attend UConn at Storrs as a music education major in the fall.

“UConn was one of my top choices. They have a great music education program,” says Caroline, who will receive a full-tuition scholarship to the program.

Just as she has at NBHS, Caroline will likely stand out at UConn, and not only for her academic and musical talent. Her instrument of choice is the trombone, a brass instrument that most associate with male instrumentalists rather than female. She also plays piano and baritone horn.

“I come from a musical family,” she says of her mom Julie, dad Keith, and brother Alex.

“I really want to thank my parents for pushing me to take challenging courses and for helping me going into music, and having that be my activity,” says Caroline, who started playing piano in 3rd grade and still takes music theory lessons with her piano teacher.

“We also all love Broadway and going to shows,” says Caroline of the Shadman clan.

During her high school career, Caroline served as volunteer experience assistant director for three North Branford Intermediate School musical productions and was an intern at New Haven’s Shubert Theater, assisting with choreography and supervision of campers for two-week music theater camp. Her other interests include karate (she’s earned her black belt) and dance. Caroline danced ballet and tap for 12 years through 2019 and was a dance assistant at Studio One Dance Center in Branford while she was a freshman and sophomore at NBHS.

She says she’ll miss attending school with Alex, who is two years younger and will be an NBHS junior next year.

“My brother has gone through every musical group with me, so when I leave, he’s going to continue participating in everything for both of us!”

Caroline also credits her NBPS education with helping her to select the trombone as her favorite instrument.

“Back in 5th grade, we had the option to try out different instruments. I came into elementary school knowing piano [which has] bass clef and treble clef, and most people are more comfortable with their right hand and treble clef. And trombone plays in a different clef, so I thought, ‘I’ll strengthen that...’ and when we tried out the mouthpieces, it just kind of fit,” she says. “Also, it was mostly boys [playing trombone] at the point, and I thought ‘I want to stand out!’ And now, I’m much better at bass clef than treble clef!”

At NBHS, Caroline was a member of the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Concert band, pep band, orchestra pit for musical productions, and the East Haven High School/NBHS Co-op Marching Band, which won the National Championship in 2020 and New England Championships in 2019 and 2020. In marching band, Caroline plays baritone horn. This year, she was the band’s brass section leader.

“My goal is to continue with baritone horn in the UConn Marching Band,” says Caroline, who will attend band camp in Storrs this summer and is excited to be eligible to perform with the band starting in the fall.

Participating in the likes of college life and other milestone events will be a return to normalcy that Caroline and her classmates are very much looking forward to, especially after coming through the dramatic changes experienced due to the global pandemic since its start in March 2020.

“It’s kind of crazy how we’ve gotten to have some of our experience back this year,” Caroline says. “The students who graduated last year didn’t really get the end of their year. But even through the pandemic, we’ve had some opportunities—to have a prom, and go on the senior trip, and be in-person for the entire year, which I think it was really incredible that our town was able to do that. I’m so grateful that all my teachers were able to work through this weird past year, and show that it is possible. So I’m looking forward to teaching in a normal world, knowing a global pandemic can’t stop teaching!”


Pam Johnson covers news for Branford and North Branford for Zip06. Email Pam at

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