CAPE ELIZABETH – When seniors in the Cape Elizabeth High School class of 2012 turn their tassels at graduation ceremonies in Fort Williams Park Sunday, they will do so as a group that has excelled in almost every discipline.

Representing just two sides of that equation are valedictorian Ethan DiNinno, a two-time individual champion at Maine’s math team finals, placing in the top 3 percent last week at nationals, and Noelle Webster, already an award-winning artist.

Both credit their school for its willingness to foster individual achievement.

“Cape Elizabeth is a place where everyone seems to be doing something, everyone is unusual or exceptional in some way, and that’s tolerated very well,” said DiNinno. “For people who are very different from the norm, they don’t necessarily have a support system at most schools, where the job seems to be to just get the average student through, but they definitely have been supported here.”

That’s true in academics, but also in the arts, says Webster. Although a participant from age 10 in South Portland’s annual Art in the Park show, Webster says that while other schools may scrimp on arts funding, hers was strong enough to both broaden and deepen her abilities, in a wide array of media.

“They’re programs are well-designed to take someone who is at a beginner stage and really invest some time in them, to help them find talents they might not have known they had,” she said. “The teachers have been really open and willing to let you develop.”

Just as importantly, says Webster, teachers have been willing to support endeavors outside the local program.

“There’s a mountain of signatures required on some of these almost mortgage-like applications,” she said.

Those signatures paid off May 31 when Webster won the Scholastic Art Awards’ National American Vision Medal, along with two other silver medals. She also got immeasurable help navigating city ordinances to create a 66-by-10-foot mural for Heart of Biddeford for her senior transition project.

Webster has been accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design, where she hopes to indulge a love of whimsy and color in industrial design, making utilitarian objects beautiful as well as functional.

DiNinno is headed to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, undecided at this time between a career in theoretical physics and practical engineering.

Both say their ready for the next stage of their educational and personal development.

“Cape Elizabeth is really great place to live, but I want to expand and see what’s out there,” said Webster.

“Graduation is a chance to thank our community for making us who we are,” said DiNinno, “but, frankly, I can’t wait to get out of here.”

Cape Elizabeth High School’s Noelle Webster is already an award-winning artist. (Staff photo by Duke Harrington)
Ethan DiNinno, valedictorian of the Cape Elizabeth High School class of 2012, is a two-time individual champion at Maine’s math team finals and a co-state champ in chess. (Staff photo by Duke Harrington)

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