Cumberland student named valedictorian at Beacon

Cumberland student named valedictorian at Beacon

Aidan Piekarski, valedictorian of the Beacon Charter High School for the Arts Class of 2020, stands with his parents, John and Julie Piekarski, outside their home in Cumberland. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – The top students at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts learned their class rank in an unconventional way last week due to the measures surrounding COVID-19.

Last Friday morning, Aidan Piekarski of Cumberland opened his door to find school administrators standing there with a miniature parade and lawn sign announcing he was class valedictorian.

A few hours later, Bethany Crawford, the school’s salutatorian, received a similar surprise at her home in Warwick.

Both students have spent their senior year participating in the CCRI Running Start Program, which allows high school students to enroll in college courses during their senior year. Over the past several weeks, the two students have continued their CCRI courses from home while also keeping in touch with Beacon friends and extracurricular activities online.

Piekarski, the son of John and Julie Piekarski, has been attending Beacon since October of his freshman year. Originally admitted as a theater student, he later joined the culinary arts program, where he discovered a passion for the restaurant business.

“I just ended up falling in love with it,” he said.

Some of his favorite opportunities at Beacon, he said, were catering arts nights and other events with the culinary program. In 2017, he served veterans at a memorial dinner, and for two years in a row he helped cater an arts gala at St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center.

In the fall, he plans to join the culinary program at Johnson and Wales University in Miami. His eventual goal, he said, is to open his own restaurant and bar.

Crawford is the daughter of Christopher and Ruth Crawford. She plans to study engineering at the University of Rhode Island and joined the Running Start Program to get ahead on her engineering studies. This past fall, she said, she was the only woman in her Introduction to Engineering course at CCRI.

“I actually made a wind turbine model that was better than a lot of the guys’, so that was pretty cool,” she said.

Crawford said she’s interested in environmental issues and spent the last few years working on a personal project trying to design a magnet-based engine. That project recently turned into her senior portfolio research paper for Beacon, where she wrote about alternate fuel sources and eco-friendly engines.

Along with engineering, she’s passionate about theater and is a member of Beacon’s Thespian Troupe 7444. Her favorite roles have included Smee in “Peter and the Starcatcher” and Peter Quince in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”