By JEN CARDINES
In another week, Plainville High School will champion 160 graduates during commencement exercises on June 15, but two will stand among the rest.
Valedictorian Brandon Mello and salutatorian Jared Demmons finished at the top in their class after four years of Advanced Placement courses, sports, and a handful of extra-curricular activities.
“I do better when I’m more involved,” Mello said. “I focus better and it makes you more balanced.”
PHS principal Roberto Medic said that Mello challenged himself during high school and “worked tirelessly” to improve the organizations he was a part of.
“Mello is not simply the valedictorian based on his academic accomplishments,” Medic said, “it is the high standard he sets for himself in everything he does.”
Both students played on sports teams during their PHS tenure. Demmons was a three-sport athlete, juggling basketball, cross country, and track and field on top of his schoolwork. He also volunteered as a basketball coach for a youth league and summer camp programs.
“Demmons has displayed academic success, along with leadership, and stewardship to the community,” Medic said.
Mello spent every spring on the tennis courts, serving as co-captain his senior year.
Plainville’s top two students both agreed that while they look forward to clubs and activities in college, they don’t intend on playing sports there so they can get adjusted to the new setting.
While Mello and Demmons were active in the National Honor Society, French and science national honor Societies, French-Italian club, and Future Business Leaders of America club, they pursued their different interests as well.
Demmons co-founded the chess club and volunteered for Tariffville Trinity Church, the Plainville Food Pantry, and the post office. Mello participated in the band and theater tech club in addition to volunteer work with Relay for Life, Autism Speaks, and the Petit Family Foundation Road Race.
The salutatorian devoted many hours to athletics and was a six-time all-academic athlete, school winner of the Heisman student athlete award, and a New Britain Herald athlete of the week. But when it came time to hit the books, he said he was drawn to the math and sciences.
“AP statistics and calculus influenced me the most,” said Demmons, who will attend Bryant University to study actuarial science.
Mello said he originally wanted to pursue actuarial science as well, but now has his sights set on computer science.
“I took AP computer science principles this year. That, and advanced information technology – it’s an independent study for two years – that’s when I really started to discover computer science,” Mello said. He will be attending the University of Connecticut this fall for the Computer Science and Engineering degree program.
Both students credited their teacher Timothy Rankin for inspiring them in the field.
“He’s a great teacher and he definitely influenced me to get into the math subject,” Demmons said.
It wasn’t until his junior year that the valedictorian began taking math and technology courses at PHS, which was when he decided to make a career out of it.
“I’m mostly just excited to learn about computer science more,” Mello said about starting classes at UConn. “I didn’t get to take that many courses because I discovered it so late.”
Demmons said that he’s excited for a fresh start at Bryant. “I’m excited to have new experiences and meet new people,” he said.