Sitting outside Up-Island Cronig’s earlier this week, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s 2008 valedictorian Truman French appeared to wearing much of the earth he had shifted around a Chilmark home that day, during a 12-hour landscaping shift.

“I’m trying to get a couple years’ college paid for,” he explained. Along with the rest of his class, Truman finished his final classes less than a week ago.

Comfortably at the top of his class, Truman was already accepted at Princeton, Yale and Dartmouth when he got the call to say he was accepted at Harvard University, May 15.

“It’s hard work,” he said, explaining his 5.884 grade point average (GPA). “I’ve been doing stone work since I was 12 and it teaches you sometimes you’ve got to just bite in and get it done.”

Less than a kid who has just finished high school, Truman comes across more as an industry veteran, an expert who approached school as a job. Though advanced placement program courses don’t count for college credit at Ivy League colleges, Truman took a substantial five in his senior year.

“It looks good, it helps,” he explained, “Your GPA goes in at a higher number.”

English was his most difficult class at school. He still got 91s and 92s though.

“I definitely had to work at that,” he said. “It’s too inconsistent and there are too many exceptions.”

If this makes Truman sound like a mathematics nerd, in fact he is most enthusiastic about creative writing and feels this is what got him into college.

“I didn’t want to write about one of those life-changing events,” he said of the personal essay that accompanies college applications, “It was just something that really happened.”

He told the story of an incident that occurred while he was driving with friends in Sao Paulo state, Brazil.

“My car broke down and this guy, he was dirt poor, and he took us in for the night.”

It was a nice break from the “formulaic analysis” of English class.

“I don’t really like school,” he said. “It’s a lot of pointless work, in my opinion. It’s exercises, grades and wasting time.”

Will college be different?

“I don’t necessarily think it will change, but at high school the freedom is not there, you’re not free to learn what you want,” he said. “At college, you have more choice.”

In fact class choices at the high school are a littler freer now, thanks in part to Truman. Picking computer science as an elective meant he brought down his GPA. Frustrated, he took the matter to the guidance office and spoke at school council before the administration made changes to the point system.

“It still hurt me, but it’s changed now for the future,” he said.

It was while working for his father during the summers nearly a decade ago that he first thought he wanted to go to Harvard. “You see these people who come here with their money,” he said, referring to the homeowners whose gardens he tended and supporting walls he helped build. “They’re all Harvard graduates.”

That over half of Harvard’s graduates are now proceeding directly to Wall Street doesn’t surprise him. He estimates that at $50,000 a year, college will cost him a quarter of a million dollars, by the time he finishes an MBA, as is his plan.

“MBA graduates are getting offered $200,000 starting salaries and that’s hard to turn down when you’re in debt,” he said. But for the moment at least Truman is focused on entrepreneurship, with a green twist. It’s part of the reason he’s taking a year off before heading to Harvard in 2009.

“I’ll knock around here till November,” he said, “then I’ll go to Brazil.” His father owns farmland in Sao Paulo state.

“They’re still using DDT down there and growing soybeans for American companies,” he said. “If you’re going to do business why not do it in an environmentally sound way?”

He is also hoping to see Brazil; two girls his age, whom he knows from spending summer and Christmas vacations in Sao Paulo, will be renting an apartment in Rio.

“I’d like to see a bit of that. I want get that traveling out of the way now, because there won’t be time after college,” he said.

He’ll then have another summer working back here; with his brother, he is partner in a landscaping and construction company on the Island.

If there’s anything he’ll miss from high school, he said, it’s his fellow students.

“Kids here aren’t judgmental and everyone hangs out with everyone else,” he said. “There’s only 200 kids and so everyone parties together.”

Though his commencement speech for Sunday’s graduation ceremony was due in at the high school the following day, Truman said he had been too busy to make a start on it.

“I’ll have to hack something together,” he said. “I want to do something a little different though, throw a wrench in there.”