West Springfield High School graduates, many of whom had decorated their mortarboards, watch as their classmates receive diplomas on June 2 at the Eastern States Coliseum. 

Reminder Publishing photo by Michael Ballway

WEST SPRINGFIELD — When Adam Mahdi entered West Springfield High School as a ninth grader, he wasn’t thinking about being valedictorian of his graduating class in 2024. He planned to play basketball, which he didn’t think would give him enough time to take AP classes.

Seniors join the West Springfield High School Band for the final time to play their farewell selection, “Mr. Brightside” by Brandon Flowers.
Reminder Publishing photo by Michael Ballway

But COVID-19 changed his plans.

“I couldn’t play basketball, so I focused heavily on academics. The goal of being valedictorian only became a thing for me entering my junior year,” he said. “I planned on getting into a top university, such as an Ivy League school, for the pre-med pathway.”

The 18-year-old didn’t learn he was the valedictorian until a few days before the June 2 graduation. When he spoke with Reminder Publishing, he hadn’t yet received his transcript, so he didn’t know his final grade point average, but he ended the third quarter with a 4.91 GPA.

“I must say that I feel proud because I didn’t think I’d get this far. My parents are also ecstatic that I’m valedictorian,” said Mahdi, whose family came to the United States as refugees looking for a better life. “I also felt relieved to be class valedictorian because I knew it would bring happiness to my family for the hard work I’ve tried to put in during my four years of high school.”

Adam Mahdi leaves the stage after delivering the valedictory speech.
Reminder Publishing photo by Michael Ballway

There were times when Mahdi would look at his grades and would think he could skip an assignment or not study for a test. Then he would remind himself that everything needs to be done to build a good work habit.

“When I was studying for tests/exams, I would take a short nap after school and wake up to do my daily activities and save studying for the late afternoon. That way, I could go to bed with the material fresh in my brain and ready to go into my long-term memory,” he said.

In his valedictorian address at graduation, Mahdi’s message to his classmates was that they should cherish the present and not worry too much about the future. He told them they should enjoy these moments and the upcoming summer with their family, friends and those they love because “realistically speaking, this is the last time we can act like the kids we once were.”

In addition to earning the top rank in his class, Mahdi also received several awards and scholarships, including the West Springfield Lions Club’s Academic Excellence Award, the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship and the AP Capstone Diploma Award.

His fondest memory at WSHS was when the AP Seminar requirements were completed and there was a celebratory dance party.

West Springfield High School teacher Stanley Svec delivers an animated commencement address.
Reminder Publishing photo by Michael Ballway

“I will never forget that day. It was the first AP class I ever took. I also won’t forget the community service when I was National Honor Society president,” he said. “We collected hundreds of canned or non-perishable goods for the Parish Cupboard alongside creating hundreds of sandwiches for Operation SONshine in Springfield. “

Mahdi said what he won’t miss is the “great stress” that midterms and finals caused him. “It was a struggle to study for every AP class midterm,” he said.

He was originally accepted to Cornell University and planned on going there until he learned he would have to pay “a whopping $42,000” each year just for tuition. He switched to the University of Massachusetts Amherst to save money so he would have less or no debt before going to medical school.

“I plan to pursue molecular biology with a focus on the pre-medical track,” said Mahdi. “I want to be a domestic or international traveling doctor, either for humanitarian missions or places that are in dire need of physicians, like rural America. Many people there lack access to practicing doctors.”