Friday, June 9, 2023

Valedictorian aims to make difference through interaction with community

By Ed Pierce

Al Potter is confident that everyone, no matter who they are, can change the world and that we all possess the power we need inside ourselves to make a difference. As Windham High School’s Class of 2023 Valedictorian, Potter says he knows that life is so much more than academics and has strived to fill his life with activities, interests and pursuits to keep him grounded and connected to the community.

Windham High School's Class of 2023 Valedictorian 
Al Potter will attend Princeton university this fall to study
Astrophysical Science. He plans to become an astrophysicist
but remains closely connected to the community though a
variety of volunteer activities and interests.
At the beginning of his high school experience, Potter struggled with just being himself, but realized that following his own path and being his own person, is the only path to success for him. He finished first academically in his class and will be attending Princeton University in the fall studying Astrophysical Science.

“At Princeton, I plan to continue immersing myself in all of my passions I discovered and developed as a WHS student,” Potter said. “I hope to be an astrophysicist who performs groundbreaking research on the most fundamental questions about our universe. I hope my efforts will somehow change the world. I have heard from younger students who ask me how they can be like me to get into an Ivy League school. The first thing I tell them is they won’t go anywhere trying to be anyone but themself, be yourself and be proud of who you are.”

To get to this point, Potter has filled every waking moment with activity. He’s an Eagle Scout, Class of 2023 president, RSU 14 School Board representative from Windham High School, a member of the school's Quiz Team, and works at a Memory Care Assisted Living Facility in Portland called Fallbrook Woods.

“I do not live a life with free time, I like to fill my life with everything I can,” Potter said. “Many of my classmates probably don’t know the breadth of the activities I am involved in and how challenging it can be to manage my time while still succeeding academically. I think many of my classmates assume I spend my whole life studying, when actually I am involved in so many different things, I spend a lot less time studying than I should. My time management skills are one of my greatest strengths. I manage to fill my life with so many different activities and responsibilities while still having time to excel at an intense course load.”


In being so well-rounded, Potter has tried to stand out as someone who is passionate and highly involved in numerous activities while also contributing to each one in a deeply impactful and intimate way.

“It is this broad interaction in so many areas that has given me such a deep appreciation for community, opportunity, and perspective. My directive to be so vastly involved has provided me with a nuanced perspective on life, which has changed how I interact with those around me,” he said. “At Windham High School, I have worked to apply these passions in every segment of the community, becoming not just a student, but a scientist, writer, speaker, leader, technician, and more. It is my vast passionate interactions coupled with my ‘good human’ nature that I think teachers and school administrators most value in me. I think we should all strive to be good humans.”

His mother, Jennifer Potter, teaches sixth grade at Jordan Small Middle School and his father, Troy Potter, is a Certified Public Accountant at Scott Associate CPAs in Portland. His sister, Sophey Potter, is a rising senior at Manhattanville College in New York studying Musical Theater and is a WHS Class of 2020 graduate.


Looking back at his early days as a student in Raymond, Potter said he is grateful for every teacher he had in elementary and middle school.

“Unlike many students, I find that I have connected personally with every teacher over the last 13 years. They have all had unique impacts on my life,” he said. “Ms. Wiley, my kindergarten and first grade teacher, showed me to channel ecstatic energy into my passions and schoolwork, rather than disrupting the class. Ms. Spencer taught me the value of hard work. Ms. Baseler enriched my creativity after learning to explore it with Mr. Newcomb.”

While attending Windham High School Potter says that his favorites classes were a tie between AP Physics with Mr. Rathbun and AP Chemistry with Dr. Bizier.

“I mention both of these classes because they were fundamental to my career choice of Astrophysics,” he said. “I love Chemistry, but I do not want to be a Chemist focusing solely on the microscopic. I love Physics, but I love Chemistry too much to be a physicist. Astrophysics allows me to continue both these passions, researching the microscopic world and seeing how it applies to the macroscopic, our universe, solar system, and our reality. I enjoyed these classes so much because they gave me a taste of complex fascinating science concepts that I had not experienced in lower-level classes. I got to learn about electron geometries and quantum mechanics which were so cool and fascinating. It is the fascination from these classes that made me love them so much, aside from all the science puns.”

In graduating as Class of 2023 President and Valedictorian, he’s accomplished two of his dreams.

“I wanted to be a Raymond student who not only succeeded academically but connected and interacted well with the student body and community as a whole,” Potter said. “To be Valedictorian is a great honor to me personally. At Jordan-Small Middle School, I attended Gifted and Talented classes from first grade to eighth grade with Mr. Newcomb, but I never actually academically qualified for these classes. I was the ‘“not so gifted’ gifted as Mr. Newcomb now puts it. To be Valedictorian, the highest high school academic honor, after never being quite ‘up to par’ as a middle and elementary student, shows that being Valedictorian is more than being smart and doing well on tests. I am not the smartest student at Windham High, because, if I have learned anything from the last 13 years, we are all uniquely gifted in our own ways. My GPA doesn’t define my intelligence, it defines my test scores, which clearly don’t define me holistically. When I look at those around me, those with higher scores and those with lower scores, I still see people who are just like me: passionate, kind, and hardworking, all in their own way. I hope that as Valedictorian I represent someone who students can look up to and see that, yes hard work pays off, but your GPA, SAT Score, or even failing one class won't define you. You don’t need to be a genius to change the world, you just need to be like Isaac Newton and sit under an apple tree while thinking about the world uniquely.” <

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