BUCKFIELD — Ever since Calvin Downey entered Buckfield High School with his friend, Jesse Warren, they’ve been in a back-and-forth contest to see who would become valedictorian.
Downey now owns the bragging rights. He’s earned the top spot in the Buckfield Junior/Senior High School Class of 2015.
It’s always been his goal to become valedictorian, Downey said by phone on Monday, and he and Warren have had a friendly competition going throughout their high school careers.
“I just think I did a smidge better in my classes than he did. It wasn’t that much,” Downey said about how he thinks he got to be number one.
The Buckfield resident said he’s always been a math and science guy, focusing on math to help him prepare for the science courses he plans to take in college.
“Math is sort of like the language and science is as if you’re doing poetry. One goes hand in hand with the other,” he said, noting he enjoyed taking chemistry with Dr. Chandele Gray and math with Barbara Worthley.
He took calculus this year at Bates College in Lewiston to further his math studies.
“I really enjoyed that a lot. It was really a preview in college in a way,” Downey said. “It was really difficult, too.”
Downey doesn’t mind being challenged. That’s why he’s heading to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass., come fall to major in physics engineering. He wants to get his bachelor’s in that and go on to earn his certificate in nuclear science engineering, with the idea of working at a nuclear power plant. Or he might head into nuclear medicine, depending on what he discovers he enjoys more in college.
“That’s my plan but it will probably change at some point,” Downey said.
His advice for his fellow, younger students is simple and aligns with what he did during high school.
“I would say try your hardest to do well in school but overall focus on the things you’re more passionate about,” he said. “Like for me, even though I am a math and science guy and I enjoy doing those, I am really into music and stuff like that.”
For the past two years, Downey has performed with the Portland Wind Ensemble and Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra. He also participated in the All State competition for all four years of high school, performing with the band ensemble, playing bass trombone. And at Buckfield High School, he participated in select chorus, which some students refer to as the popular musical TV show “Glee.”
“I have spent so much time going to concerts and performing and it’s helped me branch off and help me meet new people and do new things,” he said. “I think that’s a really important part of high school to do things outside of school and not core classes.”
Downey was a member of the Chess Club and participated in the drama program, most recently playing in the musical ensemble for this year’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.”
“I like Buckfield a lot because things like the drama department is what makes it,” he said, noting this is impressive for a small school. “Mr. (Ethan) Wright is a music teacher. … He does a great job. For 10 years we’ve had musicals.”
Downey will give the valedictorian speech — which he said is already written and ready to go – during the graduation ceremony set for 6 p.m. Saturday at the Buckfield High School auditorium at 160 Morrill St.