Islander's Blog

Nantucket Scholars

Outside of covering School Committee meetings and writing the occasional feature story about some smart kid or award-winning teacher, until very recently I never thought all that much about education.

Having graduated from an incredibly small high school (41 students in the senior class) in New York State, I pretty much took for granted that a public-school education was what it was: a melting pot of talented and not-so-talented teachers, and dedicated and not-so-dedicated students, all with a burning desire to get out as soon as possible.

I’m paying a lot more attention to school now, because I’ve got a daughter wrapping up kindergarten. I see first-hand every day the talent and dedication of her teachers, and in the middle and high school, the commitment of many of the students to receiving the highest-quality education they can get.

Nowhere was that more evident than at Tuesday night’s Nantucket Scholar awards ceremony at the Nantucket Golf Club. Eleven Nantucket High School seniors were vying for two full-tuition scholarships from the Nantucket Golf Club Foundation. The winners – Tomas Smaliorius and Anita Elahi – were the best of the best, and will graduate in the top 5 percent of their class.

Theirs is a story of hard work, commitment and sacrifice. In short, it’s a story about the American dream.

Smaliorius, who plans to attend Bucknell University in the fall to study engineering, came to Nantucket from Lithuania when he was 10 years old speaking only a handful of English words. His mother Vilma works as a clerk at the U.S. Post Office and went to school with him for the first two weeks to translate. After that, he was on his own. At home, he would listen to audiotapes and work with his stepfather Bob McGrath to perfect his English.

It worked. Today he takes honors and Advanced Placement courses, plays varsity football, basketball and baseball, and is a member of the Spanish Club and the school’s peer mediation group.

Elahi’s mother Christine, an executive housekeeper at the Wauwinet House, is from Germany, and her father, Ranju, a manager at Old South Liquors, is from Bangladesh.

Anita hopes one day to be an ambassador to Bangladesh, and plans to attend George Washington University in the fall. She is the world news editor for the student newspaper Veritas, a volunteer at the Landmark House, and a literacy volunteer.

She also played junior varsity basketball her freshman and sophomore years and was on the girls varsity basketball team last year.

Kudos to these two students, and the other nine finalists, for making the most of their opportunities, and representing their school – and their families – so well.

– Joshua Balling, I&M Managing Editor

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