On a recent evening, Callie Bremer stood before her friends, family, and classmates to deliver the valedictory speech at Central Catholic High School’s commencement ceremony.
She thanked her parents, grandparents, softball and tennis coaches, and “every teacher who’s ever had the bad luck to have me in their class.”
Callie was being sincere.
“I’m a pretty quiet student and I don’t contribute much,” she recently told The Blade.
From left to right, Drew Pariseau of St. John’s Jesuit High School, Callie Bremer of Central Catholic, Emmett Krall of Cardinal Stritch, and Emma Keller of Bowsher High School all were in the same 32-student class at Our Lady of Perpetual Help before high school.
But the rest of the gymnasium couldn’t believe she was serious.
“I thought, why would she say it was a misfortune? It was absolutely delightful,” Adele Dahlin, an English teacher at Central Catholic, said with a laugh.
This spring, top students across Toledo graduated with the coveted title of valedictorian. But four of those bright young people — Emma Keller of Bowsher High School, Emmett Krall of Cardinal Stritch High School, Drew Pariseau of St. John’s Jesuit High School, and Callie — hold a special bond born out of time shared in small classrooms years ago.
Before they were high school superstars, Emma, Emmett, Drew, and Callie were grade school classmates at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a small parochial school in South Toledo. When they graduated eighth grade, they were four among only 32 students in their class.
“This has never happened before,” Jane Hunter, an OLPH teacher of 29 years, said.
‘Like a big family’
Mrs. Hunter taught the four valedictorians religion and math in eighth grade. She credits OLPH with laying the foundation that propelled Emma, Emmett, Drew, and Callie to academic success.
Kari Bonnell, principal of OLPH, agreed.
“You can’t get away with anything here,” she said. “It really is like a big family.”
All four of the valedictorians started at OLPH in Pre-K or kindergarten and live nearby. Aside from Emma, who is an only child, they all have siblings who were also OLPH students. Callie’s grandfather and father also attended the school.
Mrs. Hunter said all four students were very quiet growing up. But Drew remembered things differently. Though he always got good grades and said he is typically more of a listener, he got into trouble constantly in middle school for talking too much.
“He would get stuff done early and distract the other students,” his mom, Lori Pariseau, said.
Drew added: “I tend to learn things fairly quickly.”
All four valedictorians said high school classes started out pretty easy. But socially, leaving a class of 32 — most who had always gone to school together — was a big transition.
In her first weeks at Bowsher, where each grade is around 300 students according to Ohio Department of Education figures, Emma said she often got lost roaming through the halls.
“You’ve got to find your place and it definitely takes adjustment,” she said.
One community where Emma found her place at Bowsher was Young Life, a Christian students’ group.
Two of her closest friends, Mandy and Megan Burmeister, are active in the group, too. When they aren’t busy with Young Life or their studies, the three friends like to solve puzzles together.
“We just started one one day for fun and it became a big thing,” Megan said. “Emma’s really good, she can put together any piece. Sometimes I’m just the sorter.”
Emma said their puzzle obsession began at the start of senior year. She estimated that they have completed around 40 so far.
Each valedictorian boasts a long list of extracurricular activities ranging from puzzle work to the more conventional — volleyball, quiz bowl, the school play.
Emmett ran track all four years of high school, attending practice after school every day.
“I wasn’t the greatest because I kept getting injuries, but it was the greatest thing,” he said with enthusiasm.
As far as school goes, Emmett knew he was a good student, but he had no idea he was top of his class until he was called down to the office at the start of second semester.
“It was an awesome moment,” he said. “I was like, ‘no way!’”
The news came as a shock to Emma as well. She was second in her class throughout high school but ousted the top student, a friend, in senior year.
“She was angry at first, but we figured it out and we’re good now,” Emma said.
Callie knew she was top of her class at the end of junior year, so she was less surprised when she became valedictorian at the end of first semester. Once that was finalized, “I let my schoolwork slip a little bit,” she said. “But not too much.”
What lies ahead
Next fall, Callie, Emmett, Drew, and Emma will all be starting at University of Toledo. Drew and Emma are living at home, while Calle and Emmett will be in dorms.
“I’ll stop by,” Callie told her mother with a grin.
In college, Callie thinks she will study psychology. Emmett is majoring in electrical engineering.
Emma isn’t sure what she wants to study, but confessed, “I’m a math and science nerd.” She likes subjects where there is a right answer.
Drew is majoring in biology and was accepted into UT’s Bacc2MD program, which guarantees him an interview at UT’s medical school if he keeps his grades up.
He is pretty sure he wants to be an opthamologist. He shadowed one for his senior project and loved it.
“The eye is so unique,” he said.
He said he’d like to study with Emma, Callie, and Emmett if they are in any classes together.
As for what comes after college? There’s a lot up in the air for the four valedictorians.
“I’m just excited for what lies ahead,” Emma said.
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