Thirteen thousand students will graduate this month from more than 130 high schools in Maine. The Maine Sunday Telegram asked high school administrators in the area to identify members of the senior class who are likely to make a difference in the world, then narrowed down the nominations to 10 of the most outstanding. They include a poet, a Presidential Scholar, a rugby player and a Rwandan refugee. There’s a future U.S. Navy officer, an opera singer and an aspiring entrepreneur.

Many are actors and athletes. Some plan to pursue the sciences while others will go into community service.

Look inside for a peek at what they’ve accomplished — and what they plan to do.


Sydney Kucine has studied under renowned opera soprano Jane Marsh and won the Classical National Association of Teachers of Singing competition for the past five years.

But Kucine says she didn’t get her musical talents from her family, though they support her decision to pursue music as a career.

“None of my family sings,” she said.

Kucine will graduate June 6 from Casco Bay High School, where she has made the honor role every trimester and was named to the National Honor Society. She also ran track, participated in theater and coached middle school basketball, in addition to teaching in a local girls choir.

“What is most striking about Sydney is her incredible work ethic, her compassion, her insatiable hunger for excellence and her professionalism,” said Michael Hale, director of the school’s college, career and citizenship program.

This fall the 18-year-old soprano will study music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music — a school she chose after flying around the country auditioning at conservatories in New York, Boston, Maryland and California. Kucine’s earliest musical memory is singing to the music of the Backstreet Boys when she was 4 years old. At the urging of her teacher, Jaye Churchill, who would later become her voice instructor, Kucine tried out for the all female choir, Musica De Filia, at age 6.

Kucine enjoys all sorts of music, including pop, dub step and electronic. She never considered herself a classical singer, but she would occasionally imitate opera singers as a joke to her friends, who seemed impressed.

So, her junior year, she decided to sing an opera for the entire school.

Now, she hopes one day to be able to sing on some of the most prestigious stages in the world.

“I’m hoping to change the world with my passion for opera,” she said. “I just really want to influence people around the world and help them through song.”

– Randy Billings


Shreyas Joshi, 17, can trace his career goals to a few specific memories: As a boy growing up in South Portland, Joshi would watch the jets take off and land at the jetport. In high school, a class devoted to engineering exposed him to unmanned aerial vehicles, and he was hooked.

“They’re being used to kill people, to take lives, but I think we should regard them in a positive light,” said Joshi, who helped design a theoretical craft to search for a missing child.

In the seventh grade, an English teacher introduced him to a no-stakes stock market game that mimed the real-world economy.

“That was really when I started looking into stocks,” Joshi said. He quickly turned a virtual profit.

Now, as he heads to Princeton University next school year, Joshi may have to choose between engineering and economics. But wherever his education takes him, Joshi, who was born in India but who has resided in the United States for most of his life, said he wants to build a company, move it to Maine, and employ locals here.

“I don’t think initially that will happen in five or six years,” he said. “But that is my ultimate goal.”

– Matt Byrne


Yarmouth High School senior Abby Vogel likes to hit people, and she likes to hit them hard.

“I only applied to colleges that had great rubgy programs,” said the 18-year-old magna cum laude graduate, who is bound for the University of California, Berkeley, in the fall.

An active rugby player since her freshman year, Vogel plays on two Portland-area club teams, including with some women who are much older than she. But the physicality of the sport is an attractive factor, she said, although it is largely popular overseas, and often played by men.

“In the winter when you’re not playing, it’s hard to not have an outlet to pummel another girl into the ground,” she said.

She hits the books as hard as she does her opponents. Vogel has completed 10 Advanced Placement classes during her high school career, six during her senior year alone — and said she is eager to explore economics or political science when she arrives in California. As for her sporting career, she looks forward to trying out for the growing women’s rugby program.

“It’s not varsity, but it’s moving in that direction,” Vogel said. “I think it will be great. I’m excited.”

– Matt Byrne


When Jimmy Kenyon applied to colleges last summer, his list of recommendations included an unusually high-profile name: President Barack Obama.

“I had it a little easier,” said Kenyon, one of 1,211 young men and women who will attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and who received a nomination to attend from the president. Kenyon was eligible for the presidential nod because his parents were both in the Navy, he said.

The Brunswick High School senior was glad to have been accepted early, taking the pressure off him and his family to wait out the traditional college application process.

“I applied to a few other colleges without any luck,” said Kenyon, who said he is president of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society, a member of a myriad of extracurricular groups, and varsity captain for two years of the tennis team.

Although the 18-year-old’s father was also in the academy, Kenyon said his decision to apply to the military institution was influenced by a childhood friend, not to mention the support of his parents.

“They’re extremely proud,” he said.

– Matt Byrne


Adrienne Damicis claims there’s an ulterior motive to her involvement in community service.

“Selfishly, it’s just something I enjoy,” said the 17-year-old from Scarborough High School.

President of the Key Club for the past two years, she was also the brain behind Scarborough High’s first-ever Kindness Week.

The event included a teacher appreciation day, in which students wrote personalized cards to their favorite faculty members, and a collection of hygiene products to give to charity.

“I was just excited that the week was so successful and other students enjoyed it,” she said.

Aside from her service work in school, Damicis is also a mentor at Camp No Limits for kids who have lost limbs.

Damicis, who had her leg amputated as a baby because of a congenital defect, said she learned to be a leader through her own experience as a camper there.

She said she hopes that now she can “kind of be the same type of inspiration for other kids.”

According to Ray Dunn, assistant principal at Scarborough High, that’s a role she already plays among her peers.

“She really gets other people involved,” he said. “She’s a catalyst for good stuff here at the high school.”

Damicis, who will attend Case Western Reserve University in the fall, said she plans to focus on international studies and public health and eventually work on healthcare systems throughout the world.

Dunn said her personality alone ensures she’ll be successful in life.

“She’s got a whole lot of energy and a great deal of good will,” he said.

– Leslie Bridgers


Adam Glynn, 18, doesn’t know exactly what his future holds, but he knows one thing for certain: It will involve helping people.

Glynn, who graduates from Thornton Academy in Saco on Sunday, is headed for Bowdoin College in the fall, a choice he made because of the school’s “commitment to the common good,” he said. He plans to focus on Latin American studies and women’s rights issues.

“I want an education that will help me do good in the world,” Glynn said.

Glynn said his empathy for those around him grew through his theater experiences at Thornton Academy. A lifelong singer who continues to perform in auditioned and all-star choirs, he joined the school’s theater group as a freshman. During the past four years, he performed in 10 productions, often in a leading role. Taking on different characters allowed him to better understand other people, he said. “I feel like I understand myself and other people exponentially better after all the theater I’ve done,” he said. “You can put yourself in someone else’s shoes and learn about their emotions and how other people’s minds work.”

Glynn’s interest in Latin American studies stems from his love of the Spanish language. He may eventually go to law school and wants to explore working for nonprofit organizations to address issues he finds important and interesting.

“I’m just so excited to figure out what I’ll be able to do,” he said.

– Gillian Graham


When Taylor Littlefield gives her valedictorian speech at graduation, she’ll talk about how others have their own greatness, especially her classmates at Sanford High School.

Teachers at the school say it is Littlefield’s commitment to greatness — both in the classroom and on the soccer field — that distinguishes her from her peers. She will attend the University of New England in Biddeford, where she will study medical biology and play soccer.

During the past four years, Littlefield has discovered a love of math and science she wants to translate into ground-breaking medical research. Right now she thinks that research would involve cancer, but she’s open to discovering other areas of interest once she starts college classes.

“I’ve known people throughout the years with cancer, and it’s become more and more prevalent,” she said. “I would love to be a part of finding a cure for such a horrible disease.”

Outside of the classroom, Littlefield played both soccer and basketball, skills she shared with younger students through youth sports camps. She was also a member of the Key Club, National Honor Society and RSVP, a program to reduce sexism and violence.

“I just like to make a difference,” she said of her volunteer work in school and the community.

Teachers at Sanford High School say Taylor is well-liked and admired by her classmates for her hard work, determination and humility.

“Taylor has all the attributes that are important to being successful in life,” said teacher Jeremy Goulet.

– Gillian Graham


It’s not overly common for students with perfect grades also to have great people skills, said Marie Eschner, director of the guidance department at Catherine McAuley High School in Portland.

But Taylor Church was both the top academic performer and the popularly elected leader of McAuley’s senior class.

“She’s the whole package,” Eschner said of the valedictorian and class president.

Church, 18, of Windham, is also a captain of the varsity swim team, a regular performer in school plays and one of 141 high school seniors in the nation who were named Presidential Scholars last month by the U.S. Department of Education.

Although Church “excels at everything,” Eschner said, she cultivated an interest in biomedical science last summer during an internship at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute.

Church will attend Yale University, where she plans to study biomedical engineering.

Specifically, Church said, she’s interested in creating new tissues with stem cells.

– Leslie Bridgers


After losing both of his parents at a young age, Michee Runyambo left his grandparents in war-torn Rwanda in 2010 to live in Portland with a family that adopted him.

When he arrived, Runyambo could speak three languages, but English wasn’t one of them, so he was placed in a special class for English language learners at Portland High School.

In only three months, Runyambo had learned enough English to join mainstream classes, where he has flourished. In his senior year he was selected for all honors and took an advanced placement course in calculus.

Runyambo, 18, works a part-time job as a cook to help support his adoptive family, which has 22 children, whose ages range from 8 to 22. Yet he still found time to participate in the school’s environmental and international clubs.

When he gets out of work, often between 8 and 11 p.m., he logs on to the computer to take an AP French course. He is also active in the community, volunteering at both his church and YMCA.

Runyambo, who graduates June 6, plans to attend the University of Maine in Orono this fall to study mechanical engineering.

After college, he plans to go back to Rwanda to help his large adoptive family.

His dream, however, is to fly.

“Probably in 10 years, I would like to be a pilot — commercial,” he said. “I hope before I become that (a pilot) I will help a lot of villagers in my country.”

– Randy Billings


When Gaelyn Lindauer was a sophomore at Bonny Eagle High School, she could barely run a mile. But a friend asked her to join the track team, so she did.

“I wanted to try something new that would be a challenge,” said Lindauer.

Since then, she has qualified as a hurdler for the state championship meet and has no problem running seven miles without stopping.

“Everything she does she tries really hard at, and she’s not afraid to try things that are difficult for her,” said Assistant Principal John Suttie.

Lindauer, 18, of Hollis, helped start the Green Team recycling program as a freshman and, this year, led the revival of the school’s literary magazine, The Green Light, which hadn’t published an issue in years.

She’s leaving the school confident that the recycling program will continue and has created a website for the magazine, which received a first-place award from the New England Scholastic Press Association.

Lindauer, who was named a Governor’s Young Writer of the Year in 2012 for her poetry, plans to study creative writing at Hampshire College — and find a bunch of other new things to try.

“I want to keep my options open and explore as much as I can,” she said.

– Leslie Bridgers