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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 7, 2011

Salutatorian at BKW
A black belt and pianist, White plans future as psychologist

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

Marion Rose White, Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s salutatorian, credits her family for her success.

White is the oldest of five children. “She’s always been a good student,” said her mother, Karen White. “She’s always worked hard at it.”

Marion White agrees. “I’m not really the smartest,” she said. “There are a lot of kids smarter than me. I work as hard as I can.”

Describing her daughter as an avid reader, Mrs. White said that Marion particularly liked reading ancient mythology. “She’s an expert and will tell her teachers if they’re wrong,” said Mrs. White.

Marion White was home-schooled until the fifth grade, and then, after that, was home-schooled again until eighth grade.

“Being the oldest, there’s a lot of responsibility,” said Marion White. “That’s part of the reason I tried to get good grades.”

Citing her research on the effect birth order has on personality, White said, “The oldest child is more in touch with the real world.”

Describing her family, White said her father, Jeffrey, works with computer programming for the Department of Motor Vehicles and her mother works with people who are mentally retarded.

Mrs. White home-schooled her children. “My dad’s a genius at math,” said Marion White, so he helped with that.

When her mother had health issues, Marion started at the elementary school in Berne. “The first day was a disaster,” she said. “I’m not a fan of change. I actually cried quite a bit that day. But I got to like it — the social interaction and having a routine every day.”

Still, she missed home schooling, and, with her mother recovered after gall-bladder surgery, Marion decided to go back to home schooling for sixth and seventh grades.

She’s oldest at 17, followed by Lillian, 16; Anna, 14; Emelia, 12; and Joshua, 11.

“We also have a lot of animals,” Marion said, including many chickens and turkeys as well as five cats, and a cow expected as a Father’s Day present.

Marion White, herself, is partial to reptiles. “They’re quiet and not messy,” she said. She had a ball python that died on Christmas two years ago. White named her python Nehebkau, which, she said, is a snake-headed Egyptian god.

White likes the study of ancient Egypt so much that she originally wanted to be an Egyptologist but decided that was impractical.

She will attend the University at Albany in the fall where she plans to major in psychology with the goal of eventually earning a doctorate degree.

“My mom works with mentally retarded people and it’s always interested me,” she said of psychology. “At the library, I got this book on mental illnesses and I was enthralled by it.”

White is particularly interested in criminology and forensic psychology.

Asked what she liked best about BKW, White said, “I liked how everybody knew each other. It was a familial thing.”

She was active in Masterminds, Key Club, and Honor Society.

White, who has a black belt in karate, also taught karate to BKW elementary students in an after-school program. “I enjoyed interacting with the kids,” she said. White doesn’t plan to continue karate in college but will keep up with playing the piano, which she enjoys. Her favorite composer is Beethoven followed by Tchaikovsky.

The subjects she liked best in high school were English and psychology. Among her favorite teachers were Jim Lemire, who taught an advanced-placement, college-level course in psychology; Philip Matthews, who taught AP English; and French teacher Sally Baker.

White also appreciated the help English teacher Greg Speck gave her with her commencement address.  Speck was giving examples of introductions, like asking a question, telling a story, or setting an imaginary scene.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I could do a beach scene,’” recalled White. She developed the idea into an extended metaphor of life at high school, even adding sound effects to the beach scene. White had to appeal to the school board in order to get permission to use the special effects at the June 25 commencement ceremony.

The speech was a success. White smiled as the crowd warmly applauded.

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