RADFORD — Alexis Brown, the Class of 2015 valedictorian from Radford High School, was already preparing to start her freshman year at the College of William and Mary in the fall.
Her family, in efforts to show their support, was already decked out in William and Mary T-shirts and toting W&M car decals, when Brown received a phone call that changed everything.
“I had already paid the deposit at William and Mary and was set to leave in August. When I applied to Harvard, I was deferred from early decision and put on the waiting list after regular decision. I’d all but given up,” Brown said.
Then she saw a voicemail from a Massachusetts’ area code.
“The lady in admissions said I’d made it. I started to cry. Then she started to cry. It was surreal,” Brown said.
Brown has never travelled north of Maryland and is excited to explore Cambridge, where the private, Ivy League campus is located, as well as Boston. With a handful of outside scholarships and aid from Harvard, Brown will attend the university as a pre-med student with her tuition paid.
“I was looking at having to take out $60,000 worth of loans to attend William and Mary. Now I get to go all the way to Harvard for next to nothing,” Brown said. “Everything I had on my bucket list and how I wanted my life to be is happening. It’s a weird feeling.”
Brown said she was determined to leave Radford and see more of the world. This drove to do well in school. Her drive helped her finish with a 4.38 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale.
“I knew we wouldn’t have money to pay full-out for college, so I needed to do well enough to get scholarships. So I worked my butt off to do really well,” Brown said.
Brown played tennis, was a member of the English academic team, danced and helped with her Jubilee Christian Center youth group. Now that she has a chance to rest before leaving Aug. 23, Brown is working nearly full-time at the Christiansburg Kroger to save up for school.
“I like to stay busy,” Brown said. “But I have a balance. I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing and being outside. I love exploring new things, watching movies and hanging with friends. The Radford community is something I’ll miss.”
This balance of working hard and making sure to spend time with friends is what helped Brown pursue her dreams, and she encourages younger students to do the same.
“Keep your eyes on the goal. You also need to have fun. When you have setbacks, you can fix it,” Brown said. “Pick yourself up when you stumble and just know it’s possible.”
Brown hopes to stay at Harvard through medical school. Inspired by her grandmother, who was a nurse, Brown hopes to work as an emergency physician overseas.
“I love that in the emergency room, it’s not just one thing. There’s a lot you can help with. And I’ve always wanted to do mission trips, so I want to combine the two,” Brown said.
During her valedictorian speech, Brown ended by reciting her favorite poem by Finn Butler titled “Saltwater.” This poem inspired her to go for her biggest goals.
“The main gist that I shared with my class was to remember that we’re made by the sea and the stars and one day, we’ll find ourselves again,” Brown said.
“I really liked the idea behind the poem. Now that I’m leaving, I’m nervous, but I’m excited too. I know I’ll be fine.”
Meet Alexis Brown
Who: Radford High School class of 2015 valedictorian
Favorite book: Harry Potter series
Favorite subject: English
Favorite teachers: Matthew Azano, English, and Rusty Swope, English
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