The Valedictorians Project started with a simple question about the young people pictured in the Globe’s “Faces of Excellence” feature that, each spring since 2005, has showcased the top students of Boston high schools. We wanted to know: Where are they now? We wanted to know if these students’ upward trajectories had continued after high school as they pursued college, established careers, and built lives. We felt that their stories might tell a larger story about mobility and opportunity.
We focused on 113 Boston students from three years – 2005, 2006, and 2007 – who finished at the top of their class, believing enough time had passed for them to have charted a path in life. We set out to track down as many as we could, chasing their stories from Dorchester to Georgia to Okinawa, Japan. In the end, we managed to find and interview more than 90 city valedictorians. We asked them about their lives after high school, their accomplishments and their struggles, their careers, their salaries, and their reflections on where they’ve ended up. Some were happy to share their experiences; others were reticent. Still others we never even located.
To establish some points of comparison, we also interviewed 65 randomly selected valedictorians from outside Boston from 2005, 2006, and 2007. And not necessarily from the wealthiest, highest-achieving school districts that perennially make the best-of lists. We tracked down graduates from places like Stoughton, Ipswich, and Lynn, to understand how their experiences may have resembled – and diverged from – those of their Boston peers. This project, in all, is built on a foundation of upward of 200 interviews over the course of a year.