Pu awarded title of co-valedictorian for the class of 2020


Provided by Grace Pu

Senior Grace Pu, the co-valedictorian of the class of 2020

Keertana Gangireddy, Co-Managing-Editor

Senior Grace Pu’s incredible academic dedication for the last four years as a student at Westford Academy has culminated to her recognition as co-valedictorian of the graduating class of 2020. This title, of being one of the highest achieving students in her grade, attests to her rigorous work ethic and passion for learning.

Pu has committed to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to pursue computer science. However, she says that her degree is subject to change, as she isn’t entirely sure what she wishes to study in the future.

“I have quite a few interests […] like AI and ethics. That’s something I’m potentially interested in. And I’ve also been getting a lot into politics, [which is] something I want to learn more about in the future,” Pu said.

Pu’s academic transcript contains an impressive amount of advanced classes. She has taken a total of eight AP courses in her high school career, including Chemistry, Calculus BC, Literature, and U.S. History, Spanish, Environmental Science, Statistics, and Psychology. In regards to managing the workload that came along with the many high-level classes she took, Pu mentions that she coped by setting priorities for herself.

“It was a lot of […] making a schedule for myself. So, I had to make sure to take breaks in between [studying] and also communicate with my teachers if something came up. I think something I had to learn throughout junior year was to focus on my mental health, since I could just work, work, work, and not take any time for myself,” Pu said.

Pu remarks that her drive for success initially was ‘a lot about college’. However, her motivation later stemmed mainly from her own self-satisfaction. 

With the pressures that rose from the competitive nature of the Westford schooling system, she realized that she had to focus on herself and not let stress make her lose perspective of the grand scheme of things.

“I had to learn […] how to not focus as much on how others perceive me, but just think more about how I’m doing. And even if I’m not living up to my own standards, [I had to get] a more realistic view of what I can accomplish,” Pu said.

Pu’s change in attitude is echoed by her AP U.S. History teacher, Laine Winokur. According to Winokur, Pu faced some difficulty with the amount of participation required in her class. After approaching Winokur regularly after school, Pu started to work with a healthier attitude regarding what one person is capable of.

“One of the key places I saw this new attitude towards her learning impact Grace’s performance in APUSH was in our Socratic Seminars. For the first half of the year, she had a lot of trouble sharing her thoughts and opinions about articles because she feared she would make the ‘wrong’ comment. However, as the year went on and her attitude towards her own learning shifted, she participated much more and was more willing to put herself out there […] even when she wasn’t sure she had the right answer,” Winokur said.

Along with attaining great academic success, Pu is also a gifted musician. She started playing violin in the third grade, and ever since, orchestra became a big part of her life outside of school. She participated in both All-States and the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra in her freshman and sophomore years and was a part of the New England Conservatory and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra in her junior and senior years respectively. 

Orchestra director Kenneth Culver, who has been working with Pu for the past four years, describes Pu to be an incredibly hard-working and caring person, with a quiet demeanor. 

“This year Grace prepared a concerto solo to play with the orchestras in our spring concert and was wonderfully prepared […] She is a very reliable violinist for her age and is very detail-oriented. I admire Grace most for her generous spirit and her fun-loving kindness with her classmates,” Culver said.

Pu’s co-valedictorian Isabella Xu considers Pu to be one of her closest, most reliable friends, saying that Pu’s dedication to her academics is ‘unmatched’. Xu looks back on one late night in her junior year, where she called Pu in necessity of someone to talk to. Pu stayed up and set aside her homework, refusing to leave the call until she ensured Xu was okay.

“Everyone has that friend they turn to in their highest and lowest moments; for me, that person has been Grace all throughout high school. Though Grace always prioritizes her academics, she is willing to drop everything to help a friend. […] Her intelligence lends itself to successful advice and logic […] Grace has grown to be one of the strongest and most mature people I have ever met and I am honored to call myself her friend,” Xu said.

Pu says that she’s curious in regards to the future, and hopes to see herself in a good career for a social and ethical cause. Throughout her time at Westford Academy, one of the many life skills she has learned is to not compare herself to people, and that it’s alright to not always have a set end goal in mind. 

“[I think the best high school advice I can give to someone is that] it’s okay to not know what you’re doing,” Pu said. “I always looked around and thought ‘oh everyone is doing this and doing that, they must be so driven’. In the end, everyone’s just following their own path, and it’s okay that you don’t know what you want to do yet. And as long as you stay focused and try your best and work as hard as you can, that’s all that matters.”