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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 7, 2011

Valedictorian at BKW
An athlete and scholar, Forti hopes to join the Peace Corps

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

“We all knew Katie was going to be valedictorian,” said Marion White, the Berne-Knox-Westerlo salutatorian, of Kathryn Sierra Minnie Forti.

“Marion and I are really great friends,” said Forti, explaining that the climb to the top wasn’t competitive. “We’ve helped each other through the years.”

Forti was valedictorian of her class in eighth grade, too, and has been at the top ever since. Asked if this was hard on her and caused pressure, Forti said, “Sometimes, especially this year, I was focused on getting good grades. I’d get a bad test back and say, ‘I have to study more.’”

Also, she said, classmates at times would say, “Go ask Katie; she knows.”

“Sometimes,” said Forti, “I didn’t know.”

The best thing about BKW, she said, is “everyone is really close.” She went on, “You walk down the halls and recognize everyone. There’s a really nice sense of community.”

One change she’d like to see is more advanced-placement, college-level courses.

“I’ve taken six AP classes,” said Forti. “We could get further ahead for college if we had more.”

Among her favorite subjects at BKW were history and calculus. “I liked calculus,” said Forti, “because there were definite answers to the problems.”

She liked history because she liked learning about different cultures.  “You learn how so many other people live and have lived,” she said.

Forti loves to read and historical fiction is her favorite genre.

She will be studying next year at the State University of New York College at Oneonta.

Forti applied to 10 colleges — Geneseo, Binghamton, the University of Vermont, Elmira, Siena, and the University at Albany among them — and was admitted to all 10.

“Berne is tiny. I wanted something bigger, but not huge,” she said of making her choice. When she visited Oneonta, she found the college to be beautiful. She visited a lab and talked to biology professors there. “They seemed really interested,” Forti said, continuing, “The students seemed great. It just seemed like a good fit.”

Forti’s future is wide open. “I haven’t ruled anything out,” she said. She plans to study biology and thinks she might enjoy a career doing research.

Directly after college, Forti thinks she’d like to join the Peace Corps. Her aunt went to Senegal in western Africa 10 years ago and found it very rewarding.

“Children are dying,” said Forti. “I want to help them.”

Asked what made her such a successful student, Forti said, “It’s mostly because I do my homework.”

She also talked about the positive influence her family has had on her learning. Her father, Anthony, works for the state’s health department, detecting the levels of contaminants in fish, and her mother, Jean, works on a relative’s vegetable farm and is active in community affairs.

“My parents are very into learning,” said Forti.

Dinner-table conversations in the Fortis’ Knox home are inspirational. Katie’s siblings — 16-year-old Adam and 11-year-old Marcy —“read so much and retain all this information,” said Forti.

“My brother’s reading Stephen Hawking about weird physics out in space that I don’t understand,” she said.

Forti also likes to camp and hunt with her brother, to cook ethnic dishes, and to travel to California to visit family and friends.

While at BKW, Forti was a member of the varsity soccer and track teams, Key Club, Students Serving Society, Honor Society, the chamber singers, chorus, and band, and was active in high-school musicals.

Following her mother’s lead, Forti has worked on a lot of volunteer projects.

“I’ve grown up with it,” she said. “I really do like giving back to the community.”

One of her volunteer activities is helping her mother lead her sister’s Girl Scout troop, from crafts to camping trips. “I love the little girls,” she said.

“She’s the best big sister I ever had,” said her sister in a handwritten release from Forti.

As a Girl Scout herself, Forti entered an essay contest when she was 15 that earned her a trip to Washington, D.C. in 2009 to watch Barack Obama take the oath of office.

Being a Girl Scout helped her set and reach goals, she said.

Forti has a passion for horseback riding and has been in the saddle since she was 8.

“I really, really love it,” she said. “I’ve been training a young horse.” Nikki, now 6, a cross between a quarter horse and a Thoroughbred, belongs to Forti’s neighbor. “Now, she responds to the slightest touch. She’ll trust me doing anything,” said Forti. “We do well in horse shows.”

Forti competes in local 4-H horse shows, drill team, and competitive trail rides.

“Horseback riding made Katie physically strong, and gave her confidence in difficult situations,” said her father. “Horses don’t always follow the game plan.”

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