Eagle Valley grads headed to top schools
Eagle, CO Colorado
EAGLE, Colorado “-To understand the drive that lead Eric Kline to become valedictorian at Eagle Valley High School, look at his sea kayak.
That’s right ” the 18-year-old has spent hours in the garage of his Gypsum home, piecing together a boat out of cedar.
The intricate, 17-foot kayak illustrates the attention to detail that catapulted Kline to the top of his class.
The teen graduated last week with a 4.34 GPA, and sets out in August for the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
It’s an accomplishment that pleased Kline’s parents, steel fabricator Mike Kline and Gypsum Elementary librarian Tina Kline.
“We’re proud of him, that he could get in, and we just hope the best for him,” Mike Kline said.
If Eric’s high school performance is any indication, he’ll do just fine at MIT. Teachers describe the teen as a meticulous student.
“He’s humble and quiet and goes about quietly doing an unbelievably great job at everything he does,” said David Russell, the technology coordinator for Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum.
Russell taught Eric in a course that involved building an electric car. Eric showed up at class with several designs for the car’s frame that he had created on his home computer, without being asked to do so, Russell recalled.
Although Eric lists physics and calculus among his favorite subjects, he also excelled in art.
“He’s extremely creative,” Russell said. “He has some artistic abilities which you usually don’t find in an engineering-style mind.”
Thinking ahead to college, Eric plans to major mechanical engineering.
“I just kind of like building stuff and seeing how stuff works,” he said. “Things like gears fascinate me.”
Eric doesn’t have his career mapped out quite yet.
“I think it would be cool to come up with some new technology or invent something useful,” he said.
At MIT, Kline will compete with other students who graduated high school with near perfect scores, Mike Kline noted.
“That will be a new challenge for him and I think he’ll be able to step up to that challenge,” he said.
Eric’s acceptance to MIT reflects well on the local school system, officials say.
“It shows that the education they can get in the town of Gypsum and Eagle County School District is top rate,” Eagle Valley High School Principal Mark Strakbein said. “It is at a high level where all students can achieve the goals that they have set for themselves.”
Along with heading to a bigger school, Eric’s also moving from a town of about 5,000 residents to the Boston area, a city with more than half a million people.
“I think he’s been a little sheltered here and I think he’ll get a good taste of what’s out there, and what the world’s like,” Mike Kline said.
On a personal note, Eric is ready for the new social scene.
“I think what I’m most looking forward to is meeting new people and not being constrained by the image I have here,” he said. “I can just go out and be myself and meet people who share my interests.”
There are signs he shouldn’t be worried about his image. Emily Schlegel, one of Eric’s best friends, describes him as a nice, trustworthy person.
“He’s a very good listener,” the 19-year-old Gypsum resident said. “He’s a good friend. He’s not super talkative but when you get to know him, he opens up a lot.”
When Schlegel struggled in Spanish class, Eric helped her learn the material. And when Eric escorted Schlegel to proms, he always bought her the prettiest corsages, she said.
“We’ll go see a movie with a whole bunch of people and he always pays for all the girls who are there,” she said. “He’s that guy. He’s a complete gentleman.”
Schlegel wasn’t surprised to hear that Eric had been named valedictorian. She’s always seen him as an intelligent, detail-oriented person who becomes completely immersed in projects.
“Have you seen his sea kayak?” she said.
Throughout high school, Eric has been involved in a good-natured battle for academic supremacy with Kyle Werner.
At the end of the school year, their GPAs differed by only a one-hundreth of a percent. Werner scored the salutatorian title with a 4.33-percent GPA.
Kyle brought down the house at Sunday’s graduation with a rap he delivered in place of a speech.
That, teachers say, is a classic example of his sense of humor.
“It’s one of those things where he has a dry sense of humor and a very intelligent sense of humor,” Russell said. “He’ll crack a joke, like a one-liner that goes with the situation, then he’ll kind of look at you to see if you’ve got it.”
On a serious note, Kyle has been appointed to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
He’s thinking about becoming an engineer in the future.
“I’d like to design something to replace the F-22,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement.”
As he prepares for the academy, Werner looks forward to meeting new people. He’s less excited about basic training, which starts at the end of June.
“As far as basic training, I try not to think about it,” she said. “It’s one of those things. It’s got to happen.”
At school, Werner excelled in math and science. He was part of a team that designed the brakes and steering for the electric car.
“I would say one of his strengths is absolute thoroughness,” Russell said.
Outside school, Werner spent his time scaling boulders or running track and cross country. The 18-year-old Eagle resident is the son of Dr. Drew Werner and St. Clare of Assisi School teacher Karen Werner.
Strakbein said being appointed to the Air Force Academy is a mark of accomplishment for Kyle.
“We’re just so proud of him and what he believes in and stands for,” he said.