BELFAST — Throughout high school, valedictorian Ada Potter was an athlete, scholar and member of multiple school clubs, spending her free time unwinding through drawing and experimenting with different art mediums, she said.

During her Belfast Area High School career, Ada has juggled extra-curriculars like Peer Leadership, National Honor Society, Ocean Science Bowl, Debate Club, Civil Rights Team, the Climate Crisis Committee, track and soccer (her favorite sport),  on top of  schoolwork, she said. Sometimes she escapes her busy life through art.

“Because drawing has been incredibly helpful for me to sort of calm down and forget all the little details and stress that the events in life hold, so I’m very thankful that I’ve gotten into drawing in that way,” she said.

She enjoys riding her bike out and then walking into the woods to sketch scientific illustrations of plants in the forest, she said. She also experiments with different art mediums like paint and digital art on her iPad, where she enjoys using the “undo” button.

Though she has consistently ranked among the top in her class all year, Ada was surprised to learn that she is this year’s valedictorian, she said. She feels honored to be named at the top of her class but thinks it was probably a close ranking among her peers.

“It definitely feels very unexpected. My class is full of incredibly strong students who are, I think, very close in the ranking, so I didn’t entirely see this one coming. But I definitely feel very, very honored as well.”

Ada enjoyed her art classes, biology and math in school, adding that she likes math because of “the way that there’s one concrete answer … that just really appeals to me,” she said.

Physics and chemistry teacher Ted Pellerin had an “energetic and curious” teaching style that inspired her to learn, she said. He would dive into subjects the students were most interested in and he always encouraged students to question the world.

Writing was one subject that was a little difficult but her English teacher, Zachary Smith, never doubted her when she did not have much confidence and was not speaking up in school, she said.

“He just consistently told me that what I had to say had value and that was … a lesson I won’t forget,” she said.

Ada is not sure exactly what she wants to do in life yet, so she plans to double major in environmental science and visual arts at Bowdoin College, she said, though she expects to change majors at some point when she has better narrowed down her passions after taking a “hodgepodge of classes.”

She is most excited to dive into the college’s Schiller Coastal Studies Center and Organic Garden, she said. Environmental science is something her and her classmates have been passionate about through high school. She thinks it is because it is difficult to ignore, where Belfast is situated on the coast. Climate change is a topic that many of her peers have rallied around.

“It lifts us all up for a common cause and empowers us all, so that’s been really powerful.”

Through difficult COVID-19 protocols, her class has remained resilient, she said. She thinks it is something students in the close-knit class of about 100 will carry with them into the future.

“I think their resilience is a great power,” she said. “… I think we all will make strong and meaningful connections with others.”

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