Rao awarded salutatorian of his senior class


Senior Arpit Rao poses in front of Dartmouth College, where he will his education after high school.

Melanie Duronio, Features Editor

Although high school may seem like a brief period of time on the surface, much can be accomplished through hard work and dedication. Senior Arpit Rao is a prime example of this, as his diligence and passion for his education has earned him the title of Salutatorian for the Class of 2021. As he prepares to continue his education at Dartmouth College, Rao carries with him the lessons he has learned not only from his academics, but the relationships he has built as well.

Throughout his time at Westford Academy, Rao was always thinking about his future and the steps he would need to take in order to achieve his goals. He strived for academic success by taking classes that would inspire him intellectually, such as AP US History, AP Biology, and AP Chemistry.

When committing to a college, Rao wanted to attend a place that would continue to challenge him academically and guide him towards further success. As he plans to apply to law school in the future, Rao wanted to build a foundation for himself early. With its customizable scheduling and internship opportunities, Rao found that Dartmouth would be the right fit for his next four years.

At Dartmouth, he will double major in government and economics. 

Rao’s love for history was what particularly sparked his interest in law and politics. Since his sophomore year, Rao has found himself especially fascinated with American law, seeking out additional books and articles to read on his own outside of class. 

When Rao was assigned to write a paper of his choosing during his AP U.S. History class a year later, he chose to further explore the topic of U.S. Constitutional history. 

“I think it was a very rewarding academic experience. […] It showed me that I could write a paper like that at the next level. A lot of the essays you write in high school are on the shorter end, where the teacher just asks you a question and you answer it, but this [assignment] showed me that I could develop a thesis [on my own] and provide the research to back it up,” Rao said.

The quality of Rao’s writing was also recognized by his AP U.S. History teacher Beth McGregor, who was impressed by the amount of research and passion he put into his piece. Showcasing a deep understanding of the subject material, it will be published in the 2020-2021 Westford Academy History Journal.

McGregor remembers Rao as a highly motivated and involved student, with a knack for connecting what he learned back to his own world-view.  His love for history shone through in class discussions and inspired others in his class.

“Arpit’s contributions were always insightful and to the point and often led the class to a clearer understanding of topics being discussed,” McGregor said. “I fondly remember talking to him about what he had learned; he has the skills and the aptitude to accomplish great things in life.” 

Another factor that further contributed to Rao’s interest in law was his time in DECA. As a part of the club, he successfully competed in many conferences and events, including both the International and State Conferences, and was able to meet with real lawyers to hear from their experiences. This insight taught him valuable critical thinking skills, which he found could be applied to aspects of his life outside of the club.

Outside of the classroom, Rao played on the WA Boys Varsity Soccer team. Beginning as a freshman, Rao quickly proved his knack for the game, working his way to the starting lineup by only his sophomore year. In the 2020-21 season, Rao earned the position of team captain.

Former boys varsity soccer coach Tony DiLeo remembers Rao as an outstanding teammate and leader, treating his peers with respect and kindness both on and off the field. He especially remembers Rao really stepping up as a leader during the 2020-21 season, using his four years of experience to help guide newer and more inexperienced teammates. He did his best to help each player understand their roles and even offered lineup ideas to coaches. 

“He directed and positioned players in each game to help them and the team succeed,” DiLeo recalled. “Arpit is a role model for his teammates, showing how hard work, perseverance, and leadership brings success.”

Rao especially enjoyed getting to know his new teammates during the summer’s captain-run practices, where it was a chance for the team to bond as a whole.  Going forward Rao will not continue to play soccer in his college years, a difficult decision he made in order to focus on his future.

“Soccer is just great, I love it,” Rao said. “I think that will be a big hole missing [from my life].” 

While balancing his academic workload, extracurriculars, and soccer, Rao had to figure out the best way to divide up his time. He recalls late nights where he would come home from soccer practice or club meetings and then have to grind away at his homework for hours. However, the daily structure that soccer provided ultimately helped Rao with his time management.

“I think that playing a sport where you have to structure every day [around it] allows you to get better at time management,” Rao said. “Though I only played for about two months each year, I still applied those skills to the rest of the year.”

Despite his clear academic success, and being awarded the title of salutatorian, Rao remains humble. He values his experiences with his peers the most, and does not feel that his title separates him from any of that. 

“I think earning the title [of salutatorian] is more a testament to work ethic. It’s just the classes I happened to take and the teachers I happened to get,” Rao said.

Looking back on his high school years, Rao finds that the time spent with friends and teachers proves the most rewarding, rather than what you read in a textbook. According to Rao, it’s these interactions that make a person stand out and grow into who they want to be.

“People overstate how much grades matter […] It is more about what you do outside of school and the things you care about,” Rao said. “Showing schools what’s important to you is what makes you stand out.”