All valedictorians and salutatorians are, of course, impressive, if only by virtue of the inherent definition of being at the top of their class. But spend time with Sonoma Valley High School valedictorian Christina Uzzo and salutatorian Jack Murphy, and you’re instantly convinced that they are extra special. Their intelligence is obvious, and their optimism is so pervasive, you can’t be in their orbit without believing it’s a promising world out there and we’re blessed to be sharing it with them.
Christina has been number-one since her freshman year, although early on there were others who shared the spot with her. “I’m not competitive,” she said, but once she entered advanced placement classes as an upper classman, there was no catching up with her. She is graduating with a 4.27 grade point average.
Jack, on the other hand, said he didn’t know and never gave a thought to where he placed, and it wasn’t until he examined his transcript while applying to colleges that he realized he was second in his class.
So he humbly said he’s not disappointed to be coming in second, with a 4.26 because, “I never knew I was in contention. I always wanted to get good grades but I didn’t think I would end up at number two. I was shocked. I didn’t think I was that high.”
For young adults who would have every reason to be maybe a little bit cocky, these two are brilliant yet understated. Their smiles are constant, and “honored” and “appreciative” seem to be their favorite words.
“I’ve always been really motivated and I’ve always loved school,” Christina said. She is a lifelong avid reader who attended Sassarini Elementary and Adele Harrison Middle School and can’t wait to go to the University of Chicago, her first choice, in the fall. She will major in either English or comparative literature, with a minor in human rights. She hopes to someday be a teacher or an educator with a nonprofit, possibly in a foreign country. She was also accepted to UCLA, but didn’t seriously consider going there because she thought it was too big and she was looking for a change by going out of state.
Jack is an athlete who played varsity baseball and basketball, and his favorite high school classes were metal shop and physics. “It seems like physics is everywhere, and I like the applications.”
He started school at St. Francis, switching to Prestwood Elementary and Adele Harrison Middle School. He plans on playing intramural sports at the University of Michigan, where he will major in mechanical engineering. He seriously considered UCLA, but like Christina, he wanted to leave California.
They each expressed an intrigue about living in cold weather that one might guess will quickly lose its allure once experienced.
Both Christina and Jack are excited about making their commencement speeches, and neither of them is particularly nervous. Christina, who adores Jane Austin and was never interested in playing sports, has been on the mock trial team since freshman year, giving her many opportunities to speak in front of an audience.
She also gave a speech at Girls State in front of about 600 people, in which she noted, “George Washington said we should avoid partisan politics or it would be the death of this country.”