On ferry trips as a young child, Whitney Schroeder would often sidle up to a family she had never met. The she’d sit quietly and listen, barely making her presence known, soaking it all in.

Now, at 18 years old, Whitney has remained true to her younger self. She’s curious, with an unassuming nature. She is also the valedictorian of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School class of 2017. She has what her Advanced Placement English teacher Christine Ferrone calls “a quiet brilliance.”

Though Whitney is understated about her abilities, they don’t go unnoticed. Cana Courtney, a close friend of hers, said, “She’s kind of quiet in class 
. . . She’ll just sit and listen and then have amazing ideas that kind of come out of nowhere.”

These ideas that seem to come out of nowhere are taking her places. After she graduates, she’ll head to Harvard College, where she hopes to study math or one of the sciences. She likes these subjects best, though really she likes all of her classes.

Marylee, Whitney, and Joe Schroeder. — Maria Thibodeau

“She’s just so into it,” her ninth grade English teacher Kate Hennigan said.

In English this year, she applied Euler’s method to the characters in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, producing a meticulous and creative analysis of the text.

“I’ll be using it as an exemplar for years to come,” Ms. Ferrone said. “She’s able to do that interdisciplinary and flexible thinking.”

Outside of class, Whitney is involved in a number of service-oriented extracurricular organizations. She does peer outreach through Cool 2 be Kind, volunteers with Uproot: Students Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and partners with disabled students through Best Buddies.

She also plays three sports at the varsity level: soccer, basketball and track and field. This year she served as a captain for both the soccer and basketball teams, and competed in All States for track.

Off the field, she supports her team in myriad ways.

“Last year we went to Nantucket, and it was the worst, rockiest boat ride, and I get the most motion sick of anyone,” soccer teammate Cana said. “I had her on my wing taking care of me.”

Perhaps her strength as a traveling companion stems in part from her experience on the sports circuit starting at a young age. She’s been playing soccer since she was three or four, beginning with the mini kickers. Ditto for basketball. Track and field was her most recent addition. She didn’t start javelin formally until high school, though she was first exposed to it at age 10. Her father, Joe Schroeder, the track coach at the high school, brought home a javelin.

“I was in my yard and there was a pile of skunk poop, probably maybe 50 or 60 feet away, and he was like, ‘Alright, if you can land this javelin in the skunk poop, you can get as many tries as you want, I’ll give you $50,’” she said. “So then I did it eventually, and he did give me $50, and that’s when he was like, ‘Oh, you have a pretty good arm.’”

Whitney liked having her dad as a coach, and before that, in kindergarten through eighth grade, as her gym teacher. Though he occasionally embarrassed her by sharing family stories in class, they always had fun together.

She is close with all her family, particularly her older brother Michael.

“Whatever he did, she would follow him and do it,” her mother Marylee said. “He was a boy, and did some stuff that I really didn’t like, and she would think it was cool just to follow him around.”

Together they would run around the supermarket or hide in clothing racks. Whitney also loved playing football and soccer with him. Sports have always been a big part of her life, and so she was devastated when she was forced onto the sidelines sophomore year after tearing her ACL. After surgery she spent eight months rehabilitating.

“That was probably the most challenging thing I’ve faced, but overcoming it also helped me a lot,” she said. “It gave me strength as well, just the fact that I could overcome the injury. So it was a bad thing, but also a good thing in the long run.”

Whitney’s outlook is so upbeat and her accomplishments so numerous one begins to wonder how she does it. And it’s not like stress is not a part of her life. She even wrote an essay about it for Della Hardman Day. She was a freshman at the time and admitted to the difficulty of so many late nights studying. As she grew older, she learned how to deal with this by focusing on the process rather than the outcome.

“I like to plan how I’m going to study the day before,” she said. “I write down exactly what I need to focus on, taking things one at a time. Tackling each task one at a time helps.”

Mrs. Schroeder added, “She likes structure, so you know, she’d be like, I have to study for my test. She’s probably the only one out of my three kids who actually studied for a test like, a week in advance.”

Whitney said that although she felt a sense of healthy competition with her siblings growing up, her family “never pressured me to get good grades, they just trusted that I would.”

Ever the observer, she seems to have quietly internalized this message.