a woman standing at a podium in front of a microphone
Parker Curry addresses her fellow classmates during her salutatorian speech at Key West High School’s graduation last month. Curry will attend Vanderbilt University in Tennessee in the fall. LARRY BLACKBURN/Keys Weekly

Nearly a century ago, Key West native Parker Curry’s great-grandmother ended her high school career at the graduation ceremony for Key West High School’s Class of 1928. On May 24, Parker graduated from the same school with the Class of 2024. Speaking as the class salutatorian within an exceptionally competitive class, she quoted her great-grandmother in her speech. Keys Weekly’s Zack Woltanski interviewed Parker about the end of high school and the beginning of her future.

Where will you be attending college? Vanderbilt University

Do you know what you will study? I will be majoring in physics. Ever since I was little, I have loved looking up at the stars and I want to study physics to gain a deeper understanding of the night sky. In college, I really want to learn more about black holes. Also, in my physics class last year (after the AP exam), we spent a couple days investigating which parts of Marvel movies are scientifically accurate, and that made me more excited to apply science to real life.

What’s your fondest memory of high school? I’m lucky to have been a part of many groups at Key West High School, but my fondest memories are definitely from band. One memory that sticks out is when a football game last year was stopped in the second quarter because of lightning. Our band’s upper leadership went into the band director’s office, where he made us all coffee. While waiting out the storm, we discussed what we thought the band would look like after we graduated. I think that was one of my best run-throughs of the show (probably thanks to the espresso).

How would you characterize your high school?  I would characterize Key West High School as supportive. No matter how rough a day I was having — like when five different AP teachers somehow scheduled a test the same day — there were always people who could sympathize. I found mock trial to be super supportive. Our teacher sponsor, Mrs. Mercer, always encouraged us at our evening practices and helped me pull myself out of a rough day more than once with her little “encourage-mint” candies. My friends on the team were a source of inspiration as they too did their best to juggle academics and extracurriculars. 

What difficulties and challenges have you faced over the past four years? One of my biggest challenges in high school was managing my time. I was an active member in multiple service clubs, as well as band, mock trial and golf, which were in addition to my academic rigor and college applications. Finding time to complete everything was a challenge.

How did you work through it? I would make little note card lists of what I wanted and needed to get done, especially on weekends. I liked being able to check off assignments, and it helped make everything seem more manageable when it all fit on one note card.

To whom do you attribute your success (besides yourself)? I attribute a lot of my success to my family, especially my parents. They always encouraged me to pursue the classes I wanted to take and always listened to my incessant 11:30 p.m. complaints about whatever subject was bothering me that day. My friends also helped a lot, as most of them were in similarly difficult time management situations. We all helped each other and forced ourselves to study on bus rides to and from competitions.

How have you changed over the past few years?

I think I’ve become more confident. I entered high school scared of public speaking. I attribute a lot of my confidence growth to mock trial, where my coaches and teammates helped me improve. As a junior and senior, I took on the role of closing defense attorney. I’d write a closing argument based on the facts, and give a five-minute closing argument in front of the judge and jury. This confidence boost helped me improve in my other classes and as an officer in service clubs and band.

What will you miss most about your high school experience? While there are some aspects I won’t miss, like the 7:30 a.m. start time, I will miss little things like bus rides back from games and competitions. Holding up flashlights with friends and balancing textbooks for homework we’d put off until the last minute was always funny and it built friendships. I’ll also miss section traditions from band, like the high brass shark bait chant that we would do before we took the field for any show. 

What message would you want to give incoming students? I encourage every incoming student to take the challenging course, try out for the sport or pick up a new instrument. You only get better and discover passions if you seek out new things. For me, I tried multiple new activities in high school, like joining the golf team, as well as switching from alto saxophone to French horn as a sophomore. This fostered perseverance as I took on these new activities, which helped me in my studies. I also gained new friends I never would have made otherwise.

Zack Woltanski
Zack Woltanski is a Coral Shores grad and aspiring novelist. After three years of high school and a gap year in Germany, he will be studying at Brown University, with a potential major in english or philosophy.