By Noell Wolfgram Evans
Kara Flint is a tough act to follow. She also had a tough act to follow.
Flint recently graduated from Westland High School as valedictorian. It’s an honor that’s new to her, but old hat for the family. Flint is a third generation valedictorian, following in the academic footsteps of her mother and grandfather.
“It was a little bit of an influence” Flint said regarding her top of the class lineage, “but I had always strived to be the best in academics on my own.”
Her mother, Donna Flint graduated in 1978 from Buckeye Valley and her maternal grandfather, Bernis Smith, was top of his class when he graduated from the Brown School, located in Kilbourne in 1948. An aunt, Kelly Gaddis, was also valedictorian when she graduated from Buckeye Valley in 1980.
In the fall, Flint will be attending The Ohio State University as a pre-major in biomedical engineering. She choose this career path after taking a career compatibility test her freshman year. When she received the results of the test, this option stood out as it combined two things that she loved dearly – the opportunity to use science and math everyday and helping people.
She traces her love of those particular subjects back a few years. In seventh grade she was moved up to an accelerated math program and started taking algebra one. It was there that she met Mrs. Brickle who helped her not only with the technical aspects of the math problems, but also to navigate the social pitfalls that can befall a young student working a few grades ahead.
“She did so much for me,” Flint said. “Particularly, she really helped me to love math.”
She would be one of many teachers Flint looks back on as having an influence on her. There was her third grade enrichment teacher Mr. Shriner who taught more lifeskills than classroom basics and later Mark Robinson, Becky Williams, and Sarah Weber, a trio of high school math teachers who challenged and supported her each and everyday.
“All of my teachers have been really great,” Flint said.
Her strongest supporters have always been her family.
“My parents have always supported and encouraged me. They constantly tell me that I can do whatever I want. I just need to work for it.”
And about carrying on the family tradition?
“There was never any pressure that I needed to be valedictorian, just the support that I could do it.”
For Flint, her waking moments are not always spent in front of a book and she doesn’t sleep with notes under her pillow in an attempt to harness the powers of osmosis. In fact, school can at times be a struggle. Senior year was her first in many school years that she did not get straight A’s.
It was important for her to be active in high school so during her four years at Westland she was involved in not just her sharpening her grades but drama club, band, and choir. A full schedule to be sure but one that she credits to achieving her position in her class.
“You need a large support group. Get involved in some clubs. It was a time commitment, but the friends and support I gathered were definitely worth it,” she said.
Flint said that she hopes that her children will not feel pressure to be the next generation to be valedictorian. She already knows what she will tell them.
“You don’t need to stress out to match up with the family. Just know that you are capable.”