WAKEFIELD, R.I. — Prout School class of 2021 valedictorian Janice Hixon is thankful she was able to spend most of her senior year at the high school, among classmates and with her teachers.
Hixon and salutatorian Michael Garman are among the 102 Prout seniors who will graduate Tuesday night at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence. It will be the 53rd commencement for the Catholic coeducational high school.
“We were fully in-person, which as really nice, but we still had to deal with quarantines every time someone was in close contact with someone that got COVID,” Hixon said. “We would have to stay home for 14 days.”
It became challenging, especially for two students very active in school events, such as academic clubs and sports.
“But overall the school handled it extremely well. We were very fortunate,” she said.
Hixon is leaving her home in Kingston to head off to the University of Chicago, where she will major in math or computer science. She said she’d like to enter a career field with a focus on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math.
It’s a natural move for Hixon, 18, who was a member of Prout’s math team and is a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist.
“Math team is really fun. Usually we travel to a different school because all the schools in our division compete together and we compare results,” she said.
This year, Prout’s team had to stay at the high school and conduct the meets remotely.
“We had to (compete with) each school separately. It took some time, because every school had a week span to take the assignment,” she said.
One of Hixon’s favorite classes was physics, which she said was fun and made more enjoyable by the teacher, Christopher Bromley.
“He’s super funny, his classes are super enjoyable,” she said. She took Algebra II, physics and several other classes he teaches.
Serving her community also comes naturally for Hixon. She was the secretary for the senior class and is a member of the school’s Student Organ Donation Advocates Club, founded by her friend, Katie Bloomer.
“We volunteer and spread awareness about organ donation,” she said. “Katie helped host a lot of blood drives at the school and sign up organ donors.”
She also volunteered at the Peace Dale Library children’s section and an online research website called Zooniverse.org.
Hixon also is a swimmer, and a member of Prout’s swim team during her four years there.
Locally, she swam competitively for the South County YMCA and the Liquid Space Swim Club.
“I’ll probably still swim, but maybe not competitively,” she said. She’s currently a lifeguard at URI’s pool.
“I’m going to miss the ocean a lot,” in Chicago, she said.
Garman won’t be traveling too far from his Newport home, to Yale University in New Haven. There he’ll study ethics, politics and economics.
“I’ve just always been fascinated by politics and started reading more about economics in the last few years,” the senior class president said. At 17, he’s still looking forward to his first vote, next year.
“State primaries should be the first time,” he said.
He got his feet wet by taking part in the Rhode Island Model Legislature and remotely volunteered as an organizer last year for the Joe Biden presidential campaign.
“It was working with mostly the text messaging program, training new volunteers to use the platform, answering questions, helping come up with scripts to be used,” he said.
Also a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, he recently received a $2,500 National Merit Scholarship and the school’s Colin B. Foote Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in History in his junior year.
He ran cross country and varsity indoor track all four years at Prout. This year presented special challenges because of mask mandates, he said.
“It’s great to see we’re getting back to normal and it’s also conducive to better performance,” he said.
He’s volunteered as an altar server for years at his parish and helps out doing statistics and analytics for his local summer collegiate baseball team. Garman also works part-time at his family’s farm.
Both of Prout’s top students are also full International Baccalaureate Diploma candidates. Of the 102 Prout graduates, 13 are full International Baccalaureate Diploma candidates and 87 are International Baccalaureate certificate candidates. Prout is the only school in Rhode Island that offers the rigorous and respected International Baccalaureate Diploma program.
“It’s similar to the AP program,” Garman said. “The IB is used more globally, and there’s more independent work. There’s an internal assessment, which is a project over the course of two years. Those are fascinating because you can explore whatever you want.”
Hixon produced a script for a short play which her friends acted in, and Garman “grew about a quarter ton of squash” on the family farm and donated it to a local food bank.