Mia Clark: Shelter Island School’s 2019 valedictorian

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This year’s Shelter Island High School valedictorian, Mia Clark, has an affinity for her classmates, historical jokes, and definitely, definitely animals. Achieving success has come from a convergence of lessons learned from these three influences.

When the Reporter stopped in for an interview last week at the Shelter Island School, Mia had barely one day of classes left as she paused to look back over her years in the school.

“It’s bittersweet leaving,” she said as we sat down in Ms. Tuthill’s office. “The student body here is like a family, for better or for worse.” She laughed.

Relieved that the most stressful parts are over, she’s also thankful for her supportive family, and the faculty at Shelter Island High School. Mia is a young woman who sets expectations for herself and continually exceeds them. In part, having lived on Shelter Island almost the entirety of her life, she feels she owes a good deal of that success not only to her family but the community that raised her.

“I’d like to thank my parents, the school, and you know, the works,” she said. She believes her school helped her achieve her success by always encouraging her to be prepared for any academic hurdles.

“I made sure to work and study hard and was encouraged by my teachers and family to always do so,” she said.

She credits her teachers for also encouraging a love of learning across subjects. For example, her affinity for history was recently reflected in the graduation speech she wrote, which was peppered with “a bunch of historical jokes I found very funny,” Mia chuckled.

This fall, Mia, like many of her classmates, will leave Shelter Island behind to start college. She’s set to attend Cornell University in the fall. For Mia, it’s a fulfillment of a childhood dream.

“When I was very young I heard about Cornell and all the programs that it had to offer and decided that’s really the only place I want to go,” she said.

Besides its overall excellence in academic programs, Mia was attracted in particular to the veterinarian program offered by Cornell. She plans on majoring in animal science, eventually going to veterinary school, and to turn her love of animals into a career. As of now, she is planning on focusing on big animals in veterinary school.

Big animals are a focus within the field of animal medicine that would mesh well with her experiences on Shelter Island. Occasionally after school, Mia would talk with veterinarians about the ways she could get involved with animal welfare. Throughout her high school career, Mia would often take shifts to look after horses and other animals around. In particular, she noted her work at Hampshire Farms, often late into the night, to check on their aging horses.

Mia was quick to add that her passion for caring for animals is coupled with a strong moral commitment.

“I believe that people owe a responsibility to look after animals,” she said, “especially domesticated ones whose everyday decisions are made for them by us.” 

Mia also feels deeply connected with wildlife here.

“Camping, fishing and outdoor sports are a big part of Shelter Island during the winter,” says Mia.

Before starting her adventure at Cornell in the fall, Mia plans to spend the summer working on the ferry, enjoying the beach and the many outdoor activities of the Island, and of course, helping animals.

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