BKW valedictorian Paul Larrabee has a head start on life

Paul Larrabee will attend Clarkson University and hopes to be a mechanical engineer. 

BERNE — Berne-Knox-Westerlo valedictorian Paul Larrabee, 18, of East Berne, is graduating from high school with enough credits to technically be a college junior. 

But officially, he’ll enter Clarkson University as a sophomore, thanks to the early college program the university offers to high schoolers that allows them to take college courses while they’re still working toward their high school diplomas.

That’s on top of the several advanced placement courses through BKW that also offer college credit. The focus on college material began to overtake his early high school goal of becoming valedictorian, he said — though it obviously didn’t hold him back. 

“I wanted to do well in high school,” Larrabee said. “I thought that valedictorian would be really cool to get, so I wanted to strive to get it. But towards the end, and when I started to realize that [while] BKW is great, they don’t have a whole lot of engineering classes and stuff like that, and I was going to be taking a bunch of courses that I didn’t particularly want to do, I decided I just wanted to get a head start on my college career.”

Larrabee hopes to become a mechanical engineer and design products, he said, explaining that such a career would allow him to work on a wide variety of devices. 

“I like being able to dip my hand in a few different things so that I can have a wide range of knowledge,” he said, adding that was something he picked up during his time on BKW’s Masterminds team, which he described as a high-school version of College Quiz Bowl, or Jeopardy. In 2020, Larrabee was the second-highest scoring sophomore in the state, according to BKW, and was named All-Star multiple times. 

He also was captain of the First Tech Challenge Team, competing in robotics challenges. 

“Since [the team] was so small, it was delegating tasks around the start and making sure everybody stayed organized,” he said. “I also had to be kind of a spokesman for the team during competition and occasionally for correspondence with sponsors, or possible sponsors, and anything along those lines.”

Larrabee’s interest in engineering was helped along by a neighbor who worked for General Electric as a mechanical engineer and would tell Larrabee about projects he was working on. Larrabee also has an uncle who’s an industrial engineer and would show Larrabee sketches. 

“I always loved fiddling with things and just making random machines or coming up with ideas,” he said. “The combination of all those three things really is what made me want to be an engineer.”

Before he heads to college, Larrabee is going to Vancouver for over a month to visit his girlfriend, and when he gets back, he’ll vacation with his family. 

“My family and I have not had a vacation at all since the pandemic started,” he said.

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