WIlcox’s top student combines love for learning and desire to build

MERIDEN — Jayson Arichavala said he was around 12 years old when he became aware of the field of civil engineering.

Arichavala’s father, Luis, had worked in construction. So naturally the younger Arichavala wanted to know how highways, parking garages and buildings were constructed.

“And I wanted to be part of the process. I wanted to be the person who creates it,” Jayson Arichavala said.

This month, he will graduate ranked number one in Wilcox Technical High School’s class of 2022, which totals 175 seniors. After high school, he will pursue civil engineering at Central Connecticut State University.

Eventually he hopes to design roads, buildings and more. He sees himself becoming a project leader — coordinating the efforts of architects, engineers and contractors.

Arichavala described his educational experience as a “journey.” He gradually gained confidence, particularly in middle school. He attributed that to his mother, Maria Orellana.

“She always told me that belief is power and she told me, if I believe I could become one of the top students, I can make it,” Arichavala said.

So he studied harder, and made efforts to manage his time well. Since he knew he wanted to go into civil engineering, he needed to bolster his math skills.

Along the way, Arichavala had the support of his family and of his many friends at Wilcox. Along the way, he was a standout athlete, playing right wing on his school’s varsity soccer squad. He was included among Wilcox’s top scholar-athletes last fall.

Ever the planner, Arichavala said he chose Wilcox because he wanted to obtain hands-on experience related to construction before he began studying engineering.

“And I knew civil engineering had to correlate with construction,” Arichavala said. “... So I wanted to know how to build it, to know how to design it. So I wanted to be able to create these humongous structures by learning the theory behind it...So I went all four years, learning about the trade, the different aspects of building, the tools used and learning the terrain.”

Arichavala enrolled in Wilcox’s carpentry technology shop. He and his peers learned the trade — starting with cabinetry and millwork, eventually working their way up to residential and commercial construction. Along the way, they became proficient at not just using the tools of the trade, but developing plans, designing and building their own projects.

“I had fun. These were some of the best four years of my life,” he said of his time at Wilcox.

Charles Rolle, Wilcox’s carpentry technology department head, is not surprised Arichavala rose to the top of his class.

“He just really digs into whatever he does,” Rolle said. “... He just enjoys learning. That’s what has always impressed me about him.”

Rolle said Arichavala is not just an outstanding student. He is an “outstanding individual” as well.

Rolle was Arichavala’s shop instructor during his first two years at Wilcox. Jeff Dadonna teaches juniors and seniors. He had similar praise for Arichavala.

Upperclassmen delve into the nuts and bolts of residential construction.

“He’s amazing. He’s done so much good work,” Dadonna said. “Jayson likes to be challenged and he likes to take on the hard stuff… He’s learning all the time… And he’s always trying to challenge himself.

“It’s not just about school. It’s also about having fun,” he added.

Michelle Amann teaches English at Wilcox. She’s had Arichavala for three of his four years at the school.

The last of those classes was an Early College Experience writing class offered in partnership with the University of Connecticut, enabling Arichavala and his peers to earn college credits while in high school.

“It has been a pleasure to watch him grow into the young man that he is today,” Amann said of her former student. “His skills have grown so much and he found his voice. It’s an important voice to be heard.”

Amann said Arichavala has overcome numerous challenges, which he has shared through his writing.

“It’s so nice to see him reach his goal,” Amann said. “He’s such an incredible young man.”



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