Student Spotlights: Class of 2021 Valedictorian & Salutatorian

Headwaters School
Congratulations to our Class of 2021 Co-Valedictorians Julia Quilici and Ananya Salem and our Co-Salutatorians Isabella Prescott and Donovan Taggart.
In an extra-special Commencement evening on Friday, May 29, 2021, the Class of 2021 and their families were celebrated. Part of this ceremony included Director of Studies Paul Cronin announcing our Valedictorian and Salutatorian, and this year both honors were awarded to co-winners. Our Co-Valedictorians spoke to the crowd about why they picked Headwaters. 

Paul started by noting that there is so much to say about these four individuals. Knowing that he couldn’t cover everything they had done, he shared some highlights from their careers at Headwaters. We do the same below. And be sure to scroll to the bottom for the Co-Valedictorian speech!


Isabella Prescott
  • A mainstay on our sports teams and awarded multiple distinctions for sports, and a member of Outdoor Leadership 
  • President of Honor Council
  • Writing Lab tutor
  • Counselor and Organizer of BEST (Bladder Exstrophy Support Team) Campout every year in high school
  • In the words of David Heroy, “She makes me a better teacher.”
Isabella Prescott is headed to University of California at Davis to study Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology this fall. 

Donovan Taggart
  • Teaching Assistant for Film for the last three years
  • Captain of his rugby team
  • Avid Gamer, who wrote his senior thesis on the psychology of World of Warcraft
  • Model United Nations Distinguished Delegate
  • Interested in Cybersecurity
  • Great sense of humor
Donovan Taggart will be attending Champlain College to study cybersecurity and digital forensics.


Julia Quilici
  • Community Leader since sixth grade, including the positions of Secretary and Co-President
  • National Merit Scholar, and awarded multiple academic distinctions in her classes
  • Writing Lab tutor
  • Wrote her senior thesis in the area of Design Technology about the role of origami in materials science and design related to space tech.
  • She is a singer, swimmer, and a gamemaster
Julia Quillici will be attending Vanderbilt University to study Mechanical Engineering this fall. 

Ananya Salem
  • Community Leader since 10th grade, including the position of Co-President
  • Secretary General of our Model United Nations club
  • Writing Lab tutor and Peer Assistance and Leadership Program member
  • Awarded multiple academic distinctions in her classes
  • Leader of the Middle School Engineering and Design Project and participant in Destination Imagination challenges, she is someone who is, in the words of Kelley Janes, driven by engineering challenges.
  • Ananya was also awarded the “Exceptional Senior Award” for the Texas’ 21st Congressional District. You can see the press release at this link. 
Ananya Salem is off to Harvard University to study Neuroscience this fall. 

Co-Valedictorian Speech

And now we present the co-speech from our Co-Valedictorians, Julia (J) and Ananya (A) below. This was one of two student speeches of the evening. The other was presented by Jack Rudden and Theo Tolan. We are thankful to all of our speakers!

J: Whenever someone asks us, “Why did you pick Headwaters?” our answer is always the same. We both picked Headwaters for the community. 

A: Community is a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, experiences, and goals. No matter how long or short a time you’ve been here, there are experiences that are pretty universal to the Headwaters community. 

J: The Forward, for example. The bus rides, in all of their chaotic glory. Crossing the river, or arriving in the mud. Staying up too late. Cheering for gaga ball. Watching Performance Pitsos, and being released for meal times. The forward was designed to build our community, and it really did.

A: Or the events and celebrations that happened every year, like the costume contest, or the chinese new year, or Civil Rights Day. Gathering on the deck or walking to the capital or the library was a huge reminder of what our community is. 

J: Or, the stuff that happened every day or every week. Chaotic advisory games of hide and seek or floor is lava and improvised sports during lunch. Finding new ways to have fun, and including whoever happened to be nearby. Cramming into the studio for pitso and flopping on top of your friends, knowing that your legs would be numb by the end of the meeting. We were a community in the little corners and spontaneous bouts of laughter.

A: And the food, of course. Rushing to be first in line at the food trailer, buying far too much junk food to share with your friends, or making hot cocoa or apple cider with materials from the cafe. Asking teachers for cookies from the teachers’ lounge, and sometimes actually getting them. Advisory lunches and cars full of hungry teenagers and people running back to campus barely in time for class.

J: It’s the little moments in class, too. Having strange conversations and coming away learning more than you thought you would. Asking to work outside or on the balcony but then not getting any work done. Putting together short skits about everything from the Civil War to the PACT. Trying to predict the winner of the race on Joe’s timers. Getting overly invested in Wheel Decide. Trying to outdo each other with ridiculous answers to Kelley’s attendance questions. Going on centering walks around the block and having a staring contest with a class that was going in the opposite direction. 

A: Having random conversations with Guides during passing period, or during lunch. Hanging out in admins offices. Making cryptic Dan memes. Saying ‘hi’ to Paula and Denny. Window dog sightings. Sitting on top of picnic tables and benches, or on the stairs, and seeing faces you know both older and younger. 

J: Each year being surprised that another class has graduated and that there’s a fresh crop of 6th graders. 

A: And, each year, realizing that we’re another year older and another year closer to, well, to this very moment.

J: But despite all these truly wonderful memories, when Ted asked us during our end of year reflection what we thought our legacy as a class was, a lot of us didn’t have a good answer. 

A: Our senior year has been overshadowed by the pandemic that we are still dealing with. Many of us feel like because of that, we haven’t had the opportunity to create a legacy. 

J: But legacies are more than the physical impact you have. 

A: Legacies are about the ways you change the people around you. And each of you has done that in some way. 

J: Some of you have led and inspired younger peers as TAs. Some of you have taught them new games, like for example, hacky sack. 

A: Some of you have had deep conversations in which you shared advice or discussed your views on important issues. Some of you have started or led clubs, and have shaped how they will continue to impact the school. 

J: You’ve been there with a smile, or a high five, or a wave, or a presence at pitso. 

A: COVID has not taken away our community. It’s hard to see it, sometimes, but we are as strong as ever. Even though we weren’t together, we still shared experiences. Like, stressing about the tiny IB details that make no sense. Or stopping an off topic, perhaps mildly inappropriate conversation mid sentence when a teacher enters the zoom room. Texting or otherwise communicating with a few friends during class, and telling ourselves that the teachers definitely didn’t notice. Sending funny memes to your friend or being sent funny memes during class and trying not to crack up. 

J: Trying to pay attention to Sarah but being distracted by her cats. Having Mandatory Puppy Time with Cosmo. Senator Pogosticks’ celebrated appearances. I’m sure many of us know about asking to go into a breakout room to “work quietly” with your friends. Or, accidentally being unmuted and not realizing until it’s too late. Going to office hours to ask a question, but staying for an hour to talk about space, or plants, or politics, or knitting, or whatever else happens to come to mind. Getting jumpscared in the middle of class by Lisa’s sadistic email subject lines. 

A: And on the flipside, feeling incredibly loved when she started an email with “Hi Kittens!” or “Hey Love” or some other term of endearment. Going to class from the backyard, or from your bed, or from your friend’s house. Teasing Paul for always standing in his “Paul pose”, even during Zoom calls. Being united by a shared dislike for Kognity, even if we like the material. Spawning thousands of incomprehensible inside jokes. 

J: We can’t speak for anyone else, but both of our senior years would have been far less enjoyable without those little moments that came out of our sense of community. 

A: We would not be the same people without the advice and support you guys have given us. 

J: The experiences that we’ve all gained and the things that we’ve observed and learned are things that we’re going to take with us for the rest of our lives. We’ve left an impact on each other. 

A: And if that’s not a legacy, we don’t know what is.

J: This speech is, in essence, a love letter and a thank you letter. It’s a letter to the community that we have had the immense fortune of being a part of. 

A: We likely wouldn’t even be up here giving this speech if not for the love and support that inspired us to do the things we wanted even when they might be a little bit scary. 

J: Whether we’ve been here for just a couple of years or more than a decade, we’ve all changed and developed because of the people around us. When we leave, we’ll take not just the memories, but also the skills. We’ll take our ability to have thoughtful and polite conversations about difficult topics. The ability to have open discussions about any problems we run into. The ability to teach ourselves, to learn from our teachers, but also from each other. 

A: We’ve seen the value of mutual respect. We have dozens of role models for what it means to be a good leader, a good teammate, a good communicator, and a good person. As people who have had this environment to nurture us, it is our responsibility to take these skills with us into our future communities. 

J: Whether they are big communities like schools and dorms and workplaces, small communities like families and friend groups and households, or online communities like social media, we hope you will remember to use your skills to foster a safe and loving community. 

A: Many of us probably want to change the world. 

J: But the world is a really big place. 

A: What we need to remember is that we have the power to change little bits of the world, for better or for worse, every day. 

J: We have the ability to brighten people’s days, or stand up for what is right. 

A: No matter how big or how small the situation is, what we do matters. 

J: Headwaters has given us the tools, but we have to remember to use them. 

A: Thank you to all the people who have gotten us to where we are. 

J: We hope we can take your lessons into the world and make you proud.


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