Chemistry Proves a Catalyst for Valedictorian’s Ambition

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Valedictorian Autumn Geil at work in one of the high school’s most challenging courses, Advanced Chemical Research.
Valedictorian Autumn Geil at work in one of the high school’s most challenging courses, Advanced Chemical Research.

By Charlie Warner, Special to the Independent

Laguna Beach High School valedictorian Autumn Geil is a sterling model of the graduating class of 2017, which expect to gather for its commencement ceremony Thursday, June 21, in the Irvine Bowl.

“I’m proud of myself. It feels like all my hard work was worth it, like it finally paid off,” said the 18-year-old, who will speak at the culmination. Next fall, she will join the MIT class of 2021. “Right now I’m planning to study chemical engineering, but my major might change. All I really know is that I want to apply my degree to medicine on the research side of things.”

“Leaving LBHS is bittersweet for me,” reflected Geil. “Of course, I’m excited for MIT and ready to see and learn more in the world, but I’m gonna miss this place. I can see the ocean from some of my classes and most places on campus,” laughed Geil, who instead will have to settle for a glimpse of the Charles River that borders the campus in Cambridge, Mass. “I keep asking myself ‘why am I leaving this for snow,’ ” asked Geil.

Last year, MIT admitted just 7.9 percent of 19,020 applicants to the school, according to its website. Geil earned her rank of valedictorian by having a weighted GPA of 4.8.

Geil was very complimentary of her schooling at LBHS. “I’ve liked every teacher I’ve had.” Naturally, she eventually admitted chemistry teacher Steven Sogo was her favorite. “I spent so much time with him in honors chemistry, mathletes and Advanced Chemical Research. He pushed me and inspired me over the years, and I owe much of my success to him,” she said.

Sogo was equally complementary. “Autumn is a student who thirsts for knowledge and is enthusiastic about every aspect of learning,” he said. “She was a stalwart anchor of the LBHS Mathletes program for three years. Without her, the program would have foundered.”

And Sogo expects to stay in touch with his former student. “I am looking forward to hearing of her adventures at MIT,” he said.

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