Nicole O’Brien has known since December that she had been accepted to the esteemed Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, the mecca of science-oriented universities.
The Winthrop High School Class of 2013 salutatorian was admitted to MIT in its early-action program.
“MIT has a site where you can check online if you’ve been admitted,” said O’Brien. “I was waiting for my dad [Martin] to get home – he was at the park with the dogs – and my dad, my mom [Barbara], my friend Julia [Wallace] and I were at the computer and I logged in and then everyone just screamed in joy.”
O’Brien certainly has the impressive credentials that a college such as MIT would take notice of. She is a two-year captain of the WHS sailing team and a Presidential Scholar, an AP Scholar with Honor, a North Shore Chamber of Commerce Honors Scholar, and a Northeastern Conference Scholar-Athlete Award recipient. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, Math Club, the Quiz Bowl team, and a student liaison to the Winthrop School Committee.
“Students at Winthrop High School are given a lot of opportunities and we are able to learn a lot about leadership,” said O’Brien. “My friend went to a private school and her dad said to me at a regatta that there is a lot of talk about Winthrop public schools, but people sometimes don’t see all the good stuff going on – and it was really great that Mike [Lessard] and I got into Harvard and MIT because we got some recognition for the positive stuff going on at Winthrop High.”
O’Brien is considering a major of Biomedical Engineering at MIT, noting that a solid foundation for her scientific interests was set at Winthrop High with its excellent AP offerings in science and mathematics.
“It’s a really challenging curriculum with AP [Advanced Placement] courses,” said O’Brien, who noted the excellence of AP Calculus teacher Jeff Beck. “The teachers give you individual attention. The smaller classes are great – in AP English we sit around a circular table and discuss thing and it’s really engaging. It’s an engaging academic environment and the more interests you have the more challenges you are presented with.”
She became familiar with the intellectual atmosphere and world-class reputation of MIT at a young age.
“When I was really young I went to a summer camp at MIT – my dad worked there,” said O’Brien. “I also sailed in different regattas in Cambridge. I will be sailing for the MIT team. When people hear that I’m going to MIT, they say, ‘Wow, you must be such a genius.’ A lot of people are really proud of the Winthrop public schools as a whole for my going to MIT.”
O’Brien said retiring WHS Principal Gail Conlon was instrumental in her decision to attend Winthrop High and accessible and helpful throughout her four years at the school.
“Early on when I was deciding between high school and private school, Mrs. Conlon really influenced in choosing Winthrop High School and now I’ve definitely glad that I did,” said O’Brien. “She’s given us so many opportunities such as AP classes and different activities outside of school.”
O’Brien is working on the salutatory speech that she will deliver at graduation.
“I’m going to talk about character and how once you leave high school, everything that we’ve had in high school, like being the top of your class or being the best at this or that – all that goes away and what’s left is character and how you build character through all the tough assignments that we’ve had.”