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Person of the Week
Valedictorian Carly Fresher Inspired by Those Closest to Her
Carly Fresher was named valedictorian on North Haven High School’s Class of 2021. (Photo courtesy of Carly Fresher)
Carly Fresher has always set high standards for herself. She remembers an assignment she received her freshman year at North Haven High School (NHHS). The task called for the students to answer a variety of questions, including what is your goal. While she remembers that most students outlined goals relating to the specific course, Carly thought bigger.
“I wrote that I wanted to be valedictorian because I thought that was an achievable goal,” says Carly. “I’ve had my sights set on it since then so when it was announced, it felt like a lot of hard work coming to a culmination.”
Carly attributes much of her success to her sisters, Claire (Class of 2018) and Kelly (Class of 2019). From the time she was little, Carly looked up to her sisters, wanting to follow in their footsteps. She took up basketball and soccer like her sisters and saw them succeeding in the classroom as well.
“They were multi-sport athletes, they got great test scores, they were top of their class, and just really great students,” says Carly. “They really inspired me, but there was also friendly competition. They were top of their class but not valedictorian, and I edged them out a little on SATs, but without them, I wouldn’t have been valedictorian. It was the example they set for me that inspired me.”
Both of Carly’s sisters now attend the University of Connecticut and though Carly explored all of her options for college, she will be joining her sisters at UConn in the fall. Carly, who plans to major in engineering, was accepted to the Honors Program as a STEM Presidential Scholar, as well as the Special Program In Law, which includes admission to the UConn Law School.
For the past nine years, Carly has participated in the North Haven Future Problem Solving (FPS) program like her sisters did. She began with the program in middle school where it was an extra-curricular activity that met weekly and culminated with a competition.
When Carly got to NHHS, the FPS was a class period during her freshman and sophomore year. As a junior and senior, the program meets as a before-school class. Through the program, Carly won many state awards including a state championship for Individual Problem Solving. She also won an international award—third place in scenario writing—while competing at three International Conferences in four categories (Individual Problem Solving, Group Problem Solving, Scenario Writing, and Community Problem Solving).
Through FPS, Carly led a year-long community service project called Spreading the Music with four classmates. The group obtained gently used instruments, raised money to have the instruments cleaned, and then donated the instrument to North Haven elementary students who were unable to purchase or rent instruments.
“It started because I still had my saxophone that I had really loved playing, but I didn’t have time to continue in high school so I wanted to give it to students coming up,” says Carly. “There wasn’t a way to do that so we made a way. The best part of the program was the friends that I found—they’re my FPS family.”
In addition to the more than 60 hours Carly put into the project, Carly logged another 120 hours of community service through other opportunities such as volunteering at the library and soup kitchen, camp counselor, and coaching a U8 soccer team.
Carly is a member of four honor societies: National, Science, Math, and World Language. She also received a number of awards, including 2021 SCC Scholar Leader Award, AP Scholar, National Merit Letter of Commendation, Harvard Book Award, Jae S. Lim Scholarship Award in Math, and NHHS Department Senior Awards (Excellence in Calculus and Biology), and the Tom Marak Future Problem Solving Scholarship.
Carly’s achievements extend beyond the classroom. Taking after her sisters, she began both soccer and basketball when she was young. Carly played for the town teams in North Haven as well as for premier leagues in soccer—including two state championships with Ginga Football Club—and AAU basketball teams.
She capped both her soccer and basketball careers at NHHS as a senior captain, playing varsity for three years in soccer and four years in basketball. In basketball, she was named to the Fred Kelly All-Tournament Team in 2020 and MVP in 2021.
“I will miss sports so much—the friendships, the competition, and the confidence gained from being good at something,” says Carly, who has a new appreciation for sports after COVID. “If you asked me last year what my favorite part was, I’d say winning, but now I’ve come to value just being with other people. When they let us come back, I was brought to tears that I could go see my friends every day and compete.”
COVID disrupted the end of her junior year and part of her senior year. While it was hard to stay motivated working from home, Carly relied on staying connected with friends and collaborating through Zoom. She was excited to get back to the physical classroom and that her class was able to have a prom and will have a graduation.
“We were blessed with a beautiful prom and we’ll have a traditional graduation and I cannot wait for that,” says Carly. “With COVID, the town was given an impossible task. I logged on to some of the Board of Ed meetings and I have so much respect for the people who had to go through that. I can’t imagine how many hours Principal [Russ] Dallai and Superintendent [of Schools Patrick] Stirk put in and I’m grateful for all we did have.”
Carly is grateful to many others for their support, including her parents, Tara and Charles Fresher, who inspired her to study law. When she thinks about the many teachers she has had, Jeanne Savoia—her 5th-grade teacher at Green Acres Elementary School—stands out.
“She was so caring and it’s really where my admiration for people who help others started,” says Carly. “She’s more committed than anyone I know at her job. When you drive by the school, you can see her car there until 5 p.m. every day doing extra things. We see each other in passing and it’s nice. It’s always a great day when we get to see Mrs. Savoia.”
Another person who has been by Carly’s side for the past decade is Olivia Stefanik, who was named NHHS’s 2021 salutatorian. The pair was in nearly every class together throughout high school and were teammates in basketball for 10 years.
“I could not have achieved the rank of valedictorian without the help of Olivia,” says Carly. “We’ve been together all day every day since 1st grade and we have an academic partnership and friendship I wouldn’t trade for the world. I can’t imagine my academic career without her.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .