Nicole Oâ€™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.
â€œMIT has a site where you can check online if youâ€™ve been admitted,â€ said Oâ€™Brien. â€œI was waiting for my dad [Martin] to get home â€“ he was at the park with the dogs â€“ 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.â€
Oâ€™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.
â€œStudents at Winthrop High School are given a lot of opportunities and we are able to learn a lot about leadership,â€ said Oâ€™Brien. â€œMy 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 donâ€™t see all the good stuff going on â€“ 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.â€
Oâ€™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.
â€œItâ€™s a really challenging curriculum with AP [Advanced Placement] courses,â€ said Oâ€™Brien, who noted the excellence of AP Calculus teacher Jeff Beck. â€œThe teachers give you individual attention. The smaller classes are great â€“ in AP English we sit around a circular table and discuss thing and itâ€™s really engaging. Itâ€™s an engaging academic environment and the more interests you have the more challenges you are presented with.â€
She became familiar with the intellectual atmosphere and world-class reputation of MIT at a young age.
â€œWhen I was really young I went to a summer camp at MIT â€“ my dad worked there,â€ said Oâ€™Brien. â€œI also sailed in different regattas in Cambridge. I will be sailing for the MIT team. When people hear that Iâ€™m going to MIT, they say, â€˜Wow, you must be such a genius.â€™ A lot of people are really proud of the Winthrop public schools as a whole for my going to MIT.â€
Oâ€™Brien said retiring WHS Principal Gail Conlon was instrumental in her decision to attend Winthrop High andÂ Â accessible and helpful throughout her four years at the school.
â€œEarly on when I was deciding between high school and private school, Mrs. Conlon really influenced in choosing Winthrop High School and now Iâ€™ve definitely glad that I did,â€ said Oâ€™Brien. â€œSheâ€™s given us so many opportunities such as AP classes and different activities outside of school.â€
Oâ€™Brien is working on the salutatory speech that she will deliver at graduation.
â€œIâ€™m going to talk about character and how once you leave high school, everything that weâ€™ve had in high school, like being the top of your class or being the best at this or that â€“ all that goes away and whatâ€™s left is character and how you build character through all the tough assignments that weâ€™ve had.â€