'Harvard was it for me'

Local student to enter Ivy League school

Local student to enter Ivy League school

May 05, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD


Sondra Lavigne screamed like a kid on Christmas when she read the e-mail from Harvard.

"I had to read it three times to make sure it was right," the Clear Spring High School senior said. "I still waited to see the mailed letter, just to be sure nothing went wrong."

But the letter she received in the mail said the same thing: Sondra was going to Harvard this fall.

With a little more than a month left until high school graduation, excitement is building for the whole family. But it is tinged with a bit of fear and uncertainty.

"I've come to terms with the fact that I might be a small fish in a big pond," Sondra said. "Here, I might be a big fish in a small pond."


Sondra, 17, said that she is a proud product of the Washington County Public Schools system.

At Clear Spring, she is taking four Advanced Placement classes and one honors Spanish class. In addition to the heavy course load, she's involved in eight other extracurricular activities. She's also on the tennis team.

There's also the laundry list of church and volunteer activities.

"She's never gotten anything lower than an 'A'," said her mother, Amy Lavigne.

While some parents have to push their children to work hard in school, Sondra's parents, Amy and Art Lavigne, said there were times when they had to prod Sondra take a break from her studies.

"She's so driven," her father said. "Put down the book and watch some TV."

There was also the time when Sondra got in trouble as a very young girl.

"I know this sounds funny, but for punishment, we had to tell her to stop reading," her mother said. "But at the kitchen table, she was still trying to read the labels on the (food) boxes. We had to tell her 'No, no. You can't read.'"

Her mother said she worries that Sondra will have trouble learning to balance her life once she goes to college.

Sondra came back from her orientation visit at Harvard with a different set of fears. At orientation, she met an interesting group of students.

Sondra said the conversation during a Chinese dinner went from debating whether Doritos were better than Sun Chips to whether Germany should have been considered a world power from 1917 to 1924.

There was even a student who spoke Mandarin just because she found the language interesting.

"It's a little intimidating knowing that I'll be in class with these kids," Sondra said.

But in a way, Sondra said, she felt like she belonged there.

"I was just so surprised at how many kids from different backgrounds were there," she said. "There were kids from farms in Kansas, kids from the Bronx. It was so diverse. For the most part, these kids were pretty normal."

Sondra has months to prepare for Harvard, and there are plenty of other things to keep her mind occupied in the meantime.

It's prime AP testing season and prom is two weeks away. A picture of her boyfriend, Willie Calhoun, already has been named as a must-have item when Sondra moves into the dorms this fall.

Sondra said she's planning a much-needed vacation this summer.

Still, say the word "Harvard," and her face lights up.

"Yale said 'no' because they must have known I got into Harvard," Sondra said. "Harvard was it for me."

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