Will Stewart pitching
Will Stewart helped the team to its first postseason appearance in 10 years. — Ivy Ashe


Wait, that last one hasn’t happened yet.

But regional high school senior William Stewart has been thinking about teaching himself to play the piano for a while now, and this summer, before he packs his bags and heads off to Harvard in the fall, might be the perfect time to learn.

Mr. Stewart, of Oak Bluffs, was named 2012 class valedictorian last month, and it’s hard to work out a spot in his schedule when he might have otherwise had time to tinker around on the black and whites.

During the class day, he moves between honors classes and Advanced Placement classes (he took five AP courses this year, up from two last year and one his sophomore year), honing his writing in Keith Dodge’s English class and having philosophical discussions with teacher Catherine deGrandpre in his small five-person BC Calculus class.

When classes are over, he heads for the court, or the fields, depending on the season. In the winter, Mr. Stewart co-captained the varsity basketball team (he moved up from JV as a sophomore), and helped this year’s squad to one of its best seasons ever, which culminated in a trip to the South Section Division 3 finals. He’s a four-year starter on the baseball team, and has co-captained the Vineyard squad for two years.

His schedule is, admittedly, a tough one.

“You basically have to commit the day to the game,” he said.

So he reads for history on the bus, finishes statistics problem sets and physics labs on the ferry. It’s not easy, but he wouldn’t change anything. What on earth could he give up?

“I love what I do,” Mr. Stewart said. “I love playing sports and I just make the rest happen.”

And when practice is over, Mr. Stewart, who loves to cook (but not bake), heads home to help make dinner. (As a former Island Grown Initiative volunteer, he uses local ingredients whenever possible.) When dinner’s over, he may have a Safe Rides shift with the student-run designated driver program offered by the high school.

“It’s a long night,” he said of Safe Rides, “But you really feel like you’re doing a needed service. It’s something that’s really beneficial for a lot of people. I’d always feel really good after I finished, even though it was three o’clock in the morning.”

Will Stewart, Ms. deGrandpre wrote in an e-mail, “inspires his peers and the adults that know him to be better people.”

He’s not the most outspoken person; by his own admission, he prefers to lead by example. He is the steady presence in a whirlwind of personalities on the teams he helps captain.

“Everybody looks to you,” he said, to help the team when it’s going through a rough patch, to help the team to be as good as it can be.

Regional high school baseball coach Gary Simmons remembers seeing Mr. Stewart pitching from a Little League mound, years before he moved up to the varsity squad as a freshman. The same determination was there, the same drive to master the mechanics of the sport. He’d show up early for practice and stay late, always aiming for his best.

“You want to build around that kind of personality and determination,” Mr. Simmons said.

“We just threw him right into the mix, and he went,” he said, adding that the team ace actually began his high school career as a shortstop. “Which is really funny,” Mr. Simmons mused. “I can’t imagine him there now.”

Not after this past season, when Mr. Stewart had a 5-1 record and an ERA barely over 1.00, helping his team to its first tournament appearance in 10 years.

“[The postseason]’s never even been a thought, really,” Mr. Stewart said. “It’s never been close to reality — this year, to have that opportunity, it was amazing.”

Mr. Stewart pitched nine innings, striking out seven, in the team’s final game against Dover-Sherborn, which the Vineyard lost 2-1 in 13 innings.

“Even though we lost, there was a sense of urgency . . . that really hadn’t been there all year, and I like that feeling” Mr. Stewart said.

But he also appreciates the quieter moments — in the fall, Mr. Stewart takes advantage of his relative free time to fish in the bass and bluefish derby. He picked up a rod and reel when he was six, the same time he started his other two sports, and has picked up a number of junior division wins for shore bass.

Like any good fisherman, he won’t disclose his favorite spots, “but I love fishing up-Island, because it’s beautiful,” he offered.

“It’s a great opportunity to spend time with my dad, too,” he said. “We fish together all the time.”

Mr. Stewart was born and raised on the Island. His father, Bruce, is a building contractor and his mother, Lisa, owns Lighthouse Properties (and coaches the girls’ varsity basketball team). Younger sister Katie is a junior at the high school. Both sets of his grandparents live here as well; relatives from the mainland visit often in the summer, when Mr. Stewart is busy delivering Best Read Guides and running his own lawn mowing service (things really took off after he got his license and could branch out beyond his neighborhood).

“I can’t imagine growing up anywhere else,” he said. “I love the access to the outdoors,” he said, returning to the subject of fishing. “You’re on the water, you’re by yourself . . . it’s quiet, but you’ve got nature all around you, and that’s something I really love.”

Still, when he was looking at colleges, he knew he wanted a “city school.” Harvard doesn’t exactly fit that bill, but it’s close enough to Boston to count. And for most of the college application season, Mr. Stewart had his attentions focused on a different school.

“Originally I had been really excited about UPenn,” he said. “And to be honest, I really didn’t expect to get in to Harvard.”

“So when I found out I was admitted, it changed things a little bit.”

But he thinks it’ll be a good fit; he’s looking forward to further explorations of statistics and calculus, two of his favorite courses from this past year, and is interested in engineering, but doesn’t want to commit to one field of study too soon. Harvard has too much to offer to make such a decision before he even arrives.

“I want to go in open-minded and just have a chance to be exposed to different areas,” he said.

He’ll start his college experience by participating in the annual Freshman Outdoors Program camping trip in the wilds of Maine in early August. A screenwriter couldn’t have penned a better rural-to-urban transition for Mr. Stewart.

But first, there is graduation, a subject he is at once nervous yet level-headed about, acknowledging that it’s a huge milestone while keeping in mind how much of his life is still opening up before him.

“It’s the next step,” he said.