By Ian Ferugson
There are few more gratifying moments for a high school principal than seeing students get accepted into the college of their choice.
For Blaine High School principal Scott Ellis, seeing three students earn acceptance at two of the most elite academic institutions in the country – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), made him proud as can be. Borderite seniors Jon Fakkema and Taylor V’Dovec were accepted at MIT and Hillary Kiele was accepted into the USAFA.
“I’ve never had a class of kids work harder or be more valuable to the district than this class of 2015. These three are superior students and superior kids. They have worked tremendously hard, shown leadership in all aspects of campus life, and I couldn’t be prouder to be their principal,” Ellis said.
Fakkema and V’Dovec received their acceptance letters from MIT December 13. As Fakkema pointed out, the date was 12-13-14 for the class of ’15, making the last sequential calendar date of the century even more significant (leave it to a guy taking AP Calculus II).
Both said MIT was their top choice, and they were excited and perhaps a little stunned to be accepted into such a prestigious school.
“It was unexpected,” V’Dovec said. “I’m definitely excited.”
V’Dovec, a multi-sport athlete as well as a bright student, has been in touch with the basketball and track coaches at MIT. She will try out both teams as a freshman before choosing one or the other (or neither) to commit to. As for her major, she won’t have to declare until sophomore year, but she’s leaning towards physics.
“I’ve heard it’s a good school for that,” she said, with just a hint of understatement.
V’Dovec is currently taking her fifth AP class at Blaine. She is in the process of applying for scholarships and financial aid, and has plans of visiting campus in the spring. She’s never been to Boston before, and although she admitted going to school so far away from home might be a challenge, she said she’s looking forward to it.
“It will be an adventure,” V’Dovec said.
Like V’Dovec, Jon Fakkema has also been in touch with MIT coaches for two sports: football and track and field.
“Both coaches supported me through the application process,” Fakkema said.
He too will have to decide on one sport, unless he finds he can juggle two sports and a heavy academic load, or, as he said, “Unless I’m way smarter than I thought I was.”
Fakkema plans to study chemical engineering at MIT. He took AP chemistry, a class usually reserved for seniors, as a sophomore at Blaine. Upon completing Calculus II this spring, he will have taken all six AP courses offered at Blaine High School.
Fakkema said the AP offerings at Blaine were a major boon to his academic career.
“Mr. Ellis is really big on getting kids into AP classes, and that has contributed to my success,” Fakkema said.
Fakkema visited the MIT campus during a football camp over the summer. He said the campus felt surprisingly small, especially compared with Blaine’s campus.
“That’s OK – it’s worth it,” he said. “I’ll miss the people I’m leaving behind, but the change of scenery will be good.”
Both V’Dovec and Fakkema agreed having a friend from home on campus would make the transition a little easier.
So far, Hillary Kiele will be the lone Borderite at the USAFA. A standout runner, her personal record for the 800-meter run is 2:21.15, but she wants to go much faster than that: try Mach I, or the neighborhood of 750 miles per hour.
Acceptance to the USAFA in Colorado Springs, Colorado is a step in the right direction to becoming a pilot. She wants to study aeronautical engineering because, as she said, “I think planes are really cool. Also, if I want to be a pilot, it makes sense to know as much as possible about how planes work.”
Kiele received her letter of acceptance, as well as a full-ride scholarship, on December 12. She said she’s excited to have been accepted to such an elite institution. After earning a degree, she will spend at least five years serving her country, starting as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force upon graduation.
With her fast 800m time, Kiele qualified as a walk-on for the USAFA’s track and field team. She has already been in touch with coaches, and knows she can expect to practice two to three hours every day. First though, she’ll complete her fourth season running under the tutelage of Blaine track coach Cary Bacon, and finish out her last semester at the school she said she would miss.
“I’ve had a wonderful experience with the amazing educators here at Blaine,” Kiele said. “Everything I’ve wanted or needed, I’ve felt supported.”
V’Dovec echoed that sentiment.
“There’s a lot of opportunity here in terms of advanced classes, sports and extra-curricular activities, and there’s lots of support and guidance,” she said.
Assistant principal Wayne Vezzetti congratulated the three seniors on their acceptance.
“These guys are way smarter than me,” he said with a big grin as he shook their hands.