BURRILLVILLE – They are graduating in a unique time in human history, when the status of everything from their commencement ceremony, to the course of their secondary education, remains uncertain.  

But the two top students from the Burrillville High School Class of 2020 remain hopeful that they can still accomplish their dreams. 

Mitchell Dailey is the valedictorian and Ashleigh Plante is the salutatorian of the BHS Class of 2020.

Dailey, the son of Heather and Michael Dailey, is a member of the National Honor Society. He has been honored with the Rensselaer Medal for Excellence in Mathematics and Science, and the Harvard Book Award, the College Board AP Scholar Award, and recently, the National School Development Council Award for Academic Growth and Student Leadership.

In a release on the top graduates, Principal Michael Whaley noted that Dailey had “outstanding” ACT and SAT scores, and finished with a GPA of 3.857.

“Mitch is an individual who maintains the absolute highest standards of character, integrity, leadership and service in his high school career,” Whaley noted.

“Mitchell Dailey is a rare individual of the highest character,” Whaley wrote.

Dailey also received All-Division and All-Class Honors in both cross country and indoor track. Last year, he received the RITCA Coaches Award from the indoor track and field competitions and this year, he served as captain of this cross country team.

“My motivation to perform at a high level has come from the knowledge that I can always do better,” Dailey told NRI NOW this week. “Whatever I have already done is not complete and can always be improved.”

“For the future, my greatest hope is that the world will soon be able to return to as normal of a situation as possible,” Dailey said. “My greatest fear is that I stepped out of Burrillville High School for the last time on March 13th and did not even know it.” 

Dailey will be attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, this fall, with a major in chemical engineering. He said he plans to compete on the men’s cross country, and track and field teams.

Salutatorian Plante is the daughter of Leigh-Ann and Mark Plante. She is a member of the National Honor Society and has received the Society of Women Engineers Award, the University of Rochester George Eastman Young Leaders Award, the Clarkson University Young Leadership Award and recently, the National School Development Council Award for Academic Growth and Student Leadership.

Plante also serves as Student Council president and was responsible for organizing and overseeing activities such as homecoming week, the Mr. Bronco Pageant, Broncopalooza and a fundraiser for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. She is also the director of this year’s spring play at BHS.

“She has pursued only the highest academic standards, setting herself as a role model for the entire student body,” Whaley noted of BHS’s second top student.

Plante credited her parents with establishing a good foundation for her academic success. 

“At a young age my parents taught me the importance of hard work and have always pushed me to do my best no matter what the situation; school, work, or any other area,” Plante said. “I have also always been very curious and had a love for learning, so the grades naturally came with this.”

She said she’s had many favorite teachers during her time at Burrillville schools, from elementary school educators who helped with her academic and social development, to middle school teachers who first piqued her interest in science. 

“Mrs. Goosmann’s class focused on biology and made me realize that it was something I’d want to pursue in the future,” Plante said. “I took a science explorations class with Mr. Meehan and further verified that I wanted to do something in the science field. I worked hard all year in his class to get the science student of the year award, and it still sits on my trophy shelf.”

Plante noted out that over the past two months, the coronavirus “started to change everything.”

“I hope that I will be able to attend college in person during the first semester because I need all of the support I can get on the path to medical school,” she said. “The current situation has made me realize even more how much I believe that I belong in the medical field.”

Plante says she fears she will have to attend college online, a potential obstacle even for one of BHS’s highest-achieving students, who describes herself as a “hands-on learner.”  

“I also fear the financial side of college, because it will already be hard to pay for school, and now everyone is taking a large financial hit,” she said. 

Plante said that the uncertain financial future has left her undecided as to where she will attend school in fall. Up for consideration are the University of Rochester, the University at Albany, and the University of Rhode Island and depending on the school, she will be majoring in either biology or human biology on a pre-med track, with the dream of attending medical school and becoming a pediatric oncologist.

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