By Taylor Giuffre-Catalano
Alicia Barry was stuck at a split decision. Accepted to all of the eight colleges she applied to, including Georgetown University and Harvard University, the Revere High School senior and valedictorian had to make a difficult choice.
“I wasn’t expecting the letter to be there that day,” Barry chronicled, as she explained the day she found out she was accepted to Georgetown University. “I figured I’d stop at home on the way to work… when I got home the letter from Georgetown was on the top of the mail.” She explained that she was extremely apprehensive to opening the “small envelope” she had received. “Once I had opened it, I was so happy and so excited.”
On March 31, 2016, Barry logged into her computer to find an important message: an acceptance for admission from Harvard University. Her first reaction, she admitted, was that “they have the wrong person.” Barry explained, “It was just really shocking, I didn’t know how to react to it. I was speechless.”
After finding out that she had been accepted to other outstanding schools such as Hofstra University, George Mason University, George Washington University, Suffolk University, Boston University, and University of Massachusetts Amherst, Barry knew she needed to make a difficult decision. After visiting both Georgetown and Harvard, the American Eagle employee and RHS volleyball player selected her “first choice school”, Georgetown University.
Barry explained she felt “very relieved” after she made her choice. “Georgetown was always my first choice. Being on the campus I just feel a lot more at home… They’re both really great schools and great places to be but Georgetown just has a better feel to me… and I knew that that was where I wanted to be,” Barry noted.
She explained that her decision was also affected by her choice of major, in this case being International Relations. She stated, “[Georgetown has] a much better program for what I want to do, International Relations. Harvard doesn’t have a specific major for that, they have a Government major and it does have some exposure to International Relations, but not nearly the amount that Georgetown does.” She explained that her school of choice also has a “plus one year”, which makes it possible for Barry to get her master’s degree “in five years.”
Barry noted that in order to achieve such a feat, she had to balance a rigorous course load as well as completing extracurricular activities and community service. She took a variety of Advanced Placement (AP) classes such as AP Statistics, Calculus AB and B, Spanish, Language, Literature, Government, and Psychology. Barry also participated in many clubs such as the school newspaper, yearbook, Stay in Shape, and Book Club. She also founded the ¡Ya Veo! Community Outreach program. The program was founded to “collaborate with students from local high schools to gather clothing, eyeglasses, and educational and medical supplies to distribute in the communities of Granada and Pantanal of Nicaragua.” After spending two weeks in Nicaragua in 2013, Barry stated that she and her team helped “contribute to the safety of Pantanal by helping the community to construct a police station.”
Lucy Pirkey, Alicia Barry’s English teacher from seventh through ninth grade, noted how she knew Georgetown was a great school for Barry the second she brought it up. Pirkey said “It is rigorous, small, but definitely has a feeling of “family” about it. [It is] a place where a student would be part of something special when attending there.” Pirkey added, “When she told me about getting accepted there and to Harvard, she was quite torn because the message from everyone was, ‘Harvard, you can’t turn down Harvard!’” She explained how she believed Georgetown was a better fit for Barry, but “would not tell her” because she didn’t want to influence her choice. She suggested for Barry to visit both schools and create a list of pros and cons from both.
When Pirkey found out, she told Barry she knew she had made the right choice all along. She noted, “This is what always made Alicia stand out: informed decisions. She was never the type of student or person who could be swayed into someone else’s ideas; she always followed her own with diligent effort and quiet but steady determination until she reached her goal.”
Pirkey also stated, “I would like to say that this young woman has worked all of her academic career towards the moment of getting accepted to this caliber of school and being valedictorian… If anyone deserves both of these honors, it is Alicia. I really cannot communicate how much respect I have for her. I know that she will make a unique mark on the world as her life continues beyond high school.”