Berlin High school’s valedictorian is headed to a top-ranked educational institution.
Makayla Gorski will attend Duke University, where she plans to study biology with a concentration in genetics. She also is looking to pursue a certificate in journalism.
“Duke University has been my dream school for a long time, and that really was a driving force throughout high school, junior year especially,” said Gorski.
The BHS Class of 2021’s top student earned numerous academic awards during her high school career, including being named an AP Scholar with Distinction and a National Merit Scholarship Program Commended Student.
Gorski has been involved in multiple extracurricular activities as well, both at school and in the broader community.
She was a captain of the BHS volleyball team, and served as vice president of the National Honor Society and president of the student council.
Also, Gorski was a member of the BHS marching band and vocal ensembles, and earned leading roles in school musical theater productions.
Her extracurricular pursuits also included working as a peer tutor and taking on house leader duties in the Upbeat peer leadership program.
While Gorski had been among the premier students in her class for years, being named valedictorian took her by surprise.
“I just never realized I was at the top of my class, so I was incredibly shocked,” she said. “Calling my mom was the best part of it. She was crying over the phone.”
Gorski attributes her academic success to supportive parents and dedicated teachers.
“All teachers in our high school are so incredibly invested in students,” she said. “Especially my chemistry teacher, Mr. Wilkosz. He was my chemistry teacher during freshman year, and right from the first day he put such a large emphasis on understanding the material over the grade. I think that always striving for that understanding throughout high school is what really led me to the achievements I have today.”
She hopes those achievements will inspire her three younger siblings to excel academically as well.
As Gorski prepares to head off to Durham, North Carolina and Duke University, she advises Berlin High School students to make the most of their time there.
“You can be someone who is on the varsity sports team, be invested in the music department, and your studies, all at once,” Gorski said. “So find out what you think is fun and do all of them.”
Berlin High School Class of 2021 salutatorian Michael Bryant has dreamt of becoming an engineer since he was a young child.
“I came home from kindergarten one day with one of these worksheets that say ‘I want to be [fill in the blank].’ And I didn’t know how to spell ‘engineer’ correctly back then. It took my mom a little while to figure out what I was trying to say,” said Bryant, who will further his education at Duke University.
At the prestigious Durham, North Carolina school, Bryant will pursue a double major in electrical engineering and computer science with a goal of someday working in the robotics industry.
Since seventh grade, Bryant has been a dedicated member of Berlin’s FIRST Robotics team. He served as a middle school robotics mentor and was selected as a team captain his senior year.
Additionally, Bryant is a two-time FIRST Robotics Dean’s List Semifinalist and was among only 24 students from New England to reach those heights.
He plans to continue his involvement with FIRST Robotics as a mentor while in college and beyond.
“Before getting into college, I told my friends that I am not going to go to a school that doesn’t have a robotics club,” said Bryant. “It has been a huge part of my high school life.”
Bryant earned numerous academic awards at Berlin High School and took advantage of extensive AP course offerings, resulting in him earning AP Scholar with Distinction honors.
Heading into his junior year, Bryant was one of only 19 students accepted into the Williams College Math Camp, a rigorous residential camp for mathematically gifted high school students.
He has been involved in a variety of extracurricular activities including the National Honor Society, the Upbeat peer leadership program, and served as president of the Math Club.
Additionally, Bryant has been a three-season peer partner in the school's Unified Sports program, being selected as runner-up in the CIAC Unified Sports essay contest and receiving the 2021 Unified Sports Mike Savage Teammate Award.
Bryant’s advice to high school students is to focus on building relationships and to discover what they are passionate about.
“I know it seems kind of counterintuitive but I have found that the important part of school is not just about sitting down and doing homework,” said Bryant. “It’s also about building relationships, building things, and making memories.”