Ullrich earns title of class of 2021 valedictorian


Photo provided by Torsten Ulrich

Senior Torsten Ullrich smiles for a picture.

Sophia Keang, Reviews-Opinions Editor

After four years of hard work, late nights studying for exams, and hours spent dedicated to academia, senior Torsten Ullrich has earned the title of valedictorian for the graduating class of 2021. His passion, determination, and diligence for learning has won him the prestigious title of being the highest achieving scholar in his grade.

Ullrich has an authentic and relentless drive when it comes to academics. With a passion for music and science, his transcript features a variety of AP level courses such as Biology, Chemistry, Statistics, Calculus BC, US History, English Literature and Composition, Psychology, and Music Theory. Ullrich further challenged himself by self-studying for the Physics and Microeconomics AP exams.

His commitment to the learning process is what compelled him to commit to Brown University to continue his studies this upcoming fall. Ullrich will be majoring in neuroscience through one of the nation’s most highly selective and top pre-med programs.

Ullrich was also part of multiple extracurriculars relating to other passions like music. He is a talented musician with the ability to play the piano, clarinet, and he even started learning how to play the accordion for this year’s Westford Academy theater production of “Once”.

“Music is how I usually wind down and what I spend most of my time doing. Music-wise, I am always trying to get better, and with that mindset, I think playing [music] becomes so enjoyable for me. Unfortunately with COVID, it’s hard sometimes not being able to play music in-person. The ensemble I’m a part of is completely online so that atmosphere is just not the same when you’re making music together with your peers in the classroom,” Ullrich said.

Since the beginning, music has always been a part of his life. He started playing the clarinet in the fourth grade and the piano when he was only five years old. That passion for music grew into productivity with many of his extracurricular activities in and out of school revolving around his love for music. He was involved in the school’s Jazz Band, Symphony Winds Group, and the Tri-M Music Honor Society. He was also Band Treasurer and was a section leader for Pit Orchestra. Outside of Westford Academy, Ullrich mentored for the Westford Summer Music Program and participated in the New England Conservatory and the Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble.

The classes Ullrich took throughout his high school career never failed to interest him. However, two classes he took in his junior year stood out like no others – AP Biology and AP Chemistry. He credits Stefana Dunn, Westford Academy’s AP Biology teacher, and Timothy Knittel, Westford Academy’s AP Chemistry teacher, for his inspiration in dedicating his future to studying the human brain. Ullrich admired their ability to answer his complex questions and taught him the importance of problem-solving through logic and analytical reasoning.

“On a daily basis, he contributed thoughtful graduate-level questions to spark complex class discussions. Without a doubt, Torsten’s ability for critical thought led him to the correct answer which he was elegantly able to elaborate on in group discussions. He is an incredibly considerate, authentic, and humble individual. But, it’s a student like Torsten who renews a teacher’s passion and love for teaching on a daily basis,” Dunn said.

Additionally, Ullrich owes his successes to his friends and family. He is grateful to have such healthy relationships throughout the past four years with kids with whom he was able to study for classes and play backyard football.

Even with taking rigorous courses in the competitive academic atmosphere of Westford Academy, Ullrich managed to keep his mental health a priority, and productivity in line through self-motivation.

“My high school years haven’t been especially stressful. […] I don’t think I ever overloaded myself with what I was doing inside and outside [of school]. Whereas especially outside of school, I really only did things that I was passionate about […]. And I’ve always wanted to be the best at what I’m doing whether that being in the classroom or playing music, so my motive always seemed to be intrinsic,” Ullrich said.

Being awarded as one of the highest achieving students in his grade did not impact Ullrich’s character. He continues to stay humble about his academic achievements as well as himself.

“Getting high grades in specific classes and receiving awards for specific subjects, […] I am always happy and proud about that. But I know that there is always more for me to learn and I’m both excited and curious of what the future holds for me,” he said.

Though Ullrich has chosen to pursue his studies in neuroscience and hopes to be at the forefront of some field, he isn’t entirely sure as to what he wants to do in the future. He would have loved to volunteer or be involved in professional research before attending Brown; however, it was difficult for him to find hands-on opportunities in the midst of COVID-19 while also being one of the youngest students in his grade. Despite this setback, he is thrilled to begin the upcoming fall semester at Brown University.

“To say the least, I am excited. There are just so many opportunities, especially at Brown with its open curriculum, but I’m also curious and anxious in a way. Some people know exactly what they want to do after high school but I enjoy going into things we don’t know about,” he said.

For Ullrich, it comes down to passion: he believes that passion is what drives people to success, and he is just one example. Throughout his time at WA, one of the countless lessons he’s learned is to be ambitious.

“[My advice to current or rising high schoolers is to] be the best person you can be as a student and also a person outside of the classroom. Academically, this means trying your hardest to understand the material presented during class rather than at home because it will save you from a lot of stress. And as a person or life in general, don’t be afraid to take risks. Whether it be taking challenging courses at school or trying out new clubs, you don’t want to regret not taking an opportunity that could have led you to new doors,” Ullrich said.