Valedictorian of 2018 is an Overcomer

When you listen to Kathleen Fedzer, you learn of a young woman who has traveled the world and is cultured beyond her years, yet has struggled to find a place where she felt she truly belonged. She spent her freshman year in Connecticut, her sophomore year in Germany, and began her junior year in Cote D’Ivoire–only to be the victim of what the adults in her life called cyberbullying. Kathleen tried to blow it off, but her parents had other ideas.

Kathleen’s father had attended Bucknell University with the mother of Ryan Latham ‘18, who had been enrolled at R-MA since sixth grade. As Kathleen struggled to fit into her small school (there were only 24 students in her grade), her parents made the difficult decision to send her back to the U.S. for her education–and as they spoke to the Lathams, they determined that R-MA might be just the place they were looking for. R-MA Class of 2018 Valedictorian Kathleen Fedzer receives the valedictorian's plaque and medal from R-MA President Brig Gen David Wesley, USAF, Retired. Kathleen is holding her clarinet because at the start of her speech, she played a short piece as a tribute to her mother.

So in the second quarter of her junior year, Kathleen switched schools yet again–but this time would prove to be her last move. She spent her junior year trying to learn the ropes at R-MA. The rules and regulations were a bit daunting to her, but she pressed on. 

“I hate the [structure], it annoys me, but because I have structure, it helps me plan things,” she admitted. 

In her first year, she performed in the Christmas play, and discovered she liked the attention of others in that type of setting. That was part of what led to her writing a faux valedictorian speech for the R-MA Arts Slam competition this spring, a speech which won her a prize in the poetry/prose part of the competition. It turned out to be a foreshadowing; Kathleen was named valedictorian as the school year drew to a close. 

“I did not expect it, but I hoped for it,” she said. Still, Kathleen said she does not consider herself to have any higher intelligence than her classmates. “I commit to things if I want to do well,” she explained. “I feel I’m not that smart, I just do the work.”

Some of her teachers sought to help Kathleen overcome her tendency to underestimate herself. “Unlike most of my students in Calculus this year, I did not have Kathleen in Precalculus last year so I was not sure what to expect,” said longtime R-MA math teacher Eric Barr. “She was lacking in confidence and was not sure she belonged in the class.  More than once she asked if she could drop the class but I would not let her because I could tell by her work and comments in class that she was understanding the material just fine.  As the year went along, she became more confident and assured that she indeed could do Calculus.  She ended up getting exempt for the second semester exam because of her year-long success.  She was very vocal in class and was quick to participate in class discussion.  She consistently demonstrated her ability to do college level work while continuing to amaze herself!”  

Her advanced classes and high grades were not the only things she chose to commit to this year. Kathleen decided to get herself into shape and began running on her own. Soon she was recruited into the cross-country team. She performed poorly in her first race, vying with another girl for last place. “I came in last,” she said candidly. “But in the next 5K, I beat her. I cut two to three minutes off of my time by the end of the season.” From there, she went on to swimming, where she won the MVP award. 

As the old expression goes: “But wait, there’s more!” Participating in the drill team at R-MA takes an extra-special level of dedication, and Kathleen was one of those team members. The work, hours of practice, the competitions, and the state championship title created memories and a level of camaraderie she will never forget, as she referenced several times in her valedictorian speech during graduation. She also won a prize for her poetry in the R-MA Literary Magazine, which featured not only her writing, but some of her artwork as well. 

During Class Night, in which the highest awards of the year are presented, Kathleen received the Art Medal and the Semper Fidelis Award, the latter of which recognizes diligence, dedication, and musical excellence as a performing high school bandsman and soloist–because in addition to her academic, athletic, artistic, military, and literary prowess, Kathleen also plays the clarinet in the R-MA band. 

In the fall, Kathleen will attend Bucknell on an Army ROTC scholarship valued at $300,000. It is an assurance that this young lady, who found a home at R-MA, will continue to be an overcomer, and take to heart her own advice spoken to her classmates at graduation: “Remember, it’s not what we say, but what we do, that counts, so do something phenomenal.”