Many valedictorians are heading to well-known schools like Stanford University, the University of California or an Ivy League institution, but Connor Phillips has a different preference: Bowdoin College. It’s an outstanding institution, he says, but it’s not familiar to many on the West Coast.
Phillips, valedictorian at Lodi High School, is looking forward to attending Bowdoin, a college with fewer students than Lodi High, located about 28 miles north of Portland, Maine.
The son of David and Corene Phillips of Lodi, Connor Phillips was looking for a small, rural location to continue his education where academics are important.
“It has an emphasis on outdoor activities, mountains and rivers,” Phillips said.
“Another reason I chose Bowdoin — it has the best food in the nation. It has healthy food — gourmet food — not typical cafeteria food,” he said. “My mom thinks it’s a pain to cook and shop for me. Anything processed I won’t eat.”
Born at Lodi Memorial Hospital 18 years ago, Phillips said he surprised some people when he became a leading candidate to be valedictorian.
“For the longest time, nobody knew who I was,” Phillips said. “I attended Joe Serna Jr. Charter School. Everyone thought (the valedictorian) would be someone from Elkhorn.”
Phillips credits his education at Serna, which he attended from kindergarten through eighth grade, for his success at Lodi High.
“I was fluent (in Spanish) by the time I was in fifth grade, so I was able to take two AP Spanish classes to give me the extra boost I needed,” he said.
His grade-point average is 4.588, not counting his grades for the current semester.
When he wasn’t cracking the books, Phillips ran, and ran some more. He was on the Flames’ track and cross country teams for all four years. He also started a triathlon club in his junior year. That involves running, bicycling and swimming.
So how Phillips get such good grades when he was busy on the track or cross country course?
“I have a very simple routine — school, run, eat (dinner), homework, bed,” he said.
Phillips’ most memorable experiences at Lodi High include a cross country meet at Mt. San Antonio College in Southern California, San Joaquin County’s Science Olympiad this year and participating in a mock “Occupy Lodi” movement.
Phillips joined fellow Lodi High students Murad Khan and Matthew Mellor in staging a protest — just for fun, they said — outside City Hall on Pine Street on Nov. 27, 2011. The students protested with signs for free education and access to the Mokelumne River. Phillips said they held the mock rally because Lodi is the not the type of community where one would expect to find an “Occupy” movement.
Philips also credited his parents and two teachers for guiding him to success. One teacher is Greg Wright.
“If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have started taking the right classes, like honors English and AP human geography in freshman year,” he said.
Todd DeGrandmont taught Phillips’ Advanced Placement chemistry and physics classes during his last two years of high school.
“He has strict standards that haven’t changed at all,” Phillips said of DeGrandmont. ”It helped prepare me for college-level science classes.”
Phillips said he’s considering a career as a doctor or physical therapist, or working for a college sports team.
When asked what he hopes to accomplish 10 years from now, Phillips had a ready answer: “Graduate from Bowdoin, backpack around the world, go to grad school, try veganism and run an ultra-marathon (anything longer than typical marathon).”
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.