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McMeeken named 2017 Somerset Valedictorian

“The friends I’m not going to see. The teachers I’m not going to see. Not necessarily the place, but the people.” Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia

Ask Somerset senior Max McMeeken, and he will tell you he tends to overthink things sometimes, but he's working on that.

McMeeken, the son of Graeme and Lucie McMeeken, has been named Valedictorian of the Somerset High School Class of 2017. He plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall where he will pursue a general course of study before determining a major.

McMeeken's passion is problem solving.

"Problem solving, like world problems. But then I overthink it and think, 'Well then, I can't change the world, so maybe I can change a local problem.' I thought about getting into politics, but I think being a career politician is a bad gig. But then, that's one of the reasons I would want to go into it, to find the community of people who want to bring a little more integrity, credibility back into it," said McMeeken.

He's still working on the over thinking thing.

His academic resume includes college preparatory classes, numerous letters of excellence, medals and certificates. He was Student of the Term in social studies and is a member of the National Honor Society. McMeeken was selected to attend Badger Boys State and is the recipient of the State of Wisconsin Academic Excellence Scholarship. He has given back to his community through Red Cross blood drives, volunteer work with Second Harvest food shelf, and youth soccer on the weekends.

McMeeken singled out history teacher Dennis Potter as having made a memorable impact on his education.

"I had Mr. Potter for American History and advanced American History. He was especially relatable for me. He brings so much energy to teaching and I really value that. Teachers are underpaid, so to get good ones, it really means something. For him to bring that energy all the time to keep it up is really cool. It says a lot about him," said McMeeken.

He also gave credit to English teachers Mr. Lindenberg and Miss Spoerl,

"I think our English department here is really good. Mr. Lindenberg and Mrs. Spoerl are really good. Mrs. Spoerl read and reread a lot of my college applications and essays. She really helped me with that," said McMeeken.

Still, it really boils down to his passion for music and the rest of life.

"I considered majoring in music, but decided I don't have the passion for it," said McMeeken.

That's debatable.

He has been playing the piano since he was 8 years old and guitar since he was 5. He received Honorable Mention as a freshman competing in the Wisconsin Music Teachers Association piano competition. McMeeken contributed his skills on drums and bass to the local rock band Utopian Sleep for several years. He also wrote and co-wrote music for the band.

"It was fun while it lasted," said McMeeken.

Music's a super big part of his life.

"I'm kind of a music head. If I'm in the right mood, I'll listen to classical, but I like bluegrass too. I grew up with my dad's music. He'd put on Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, so hard rock," said McMeeken.

His catalog also includes rap and hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar and Joey Badass, but most recently, he discovered electronic dance music (EDM).

"Recently, I got into EDM stuff, electronic music like Flume and Odesza. With the Internet, I can tap into bands that are local. It's not like the 80's and 90's where you had to actually be at the local scene," said McMeeken.

His athletic accomplishments include soccer where he earned three varsity letters and served as team captain his junior and senior years. He also earned 2nd team All Conference honors as a midfielder his junior year.

As a member of the Forensics team, McMeeken earned metals both his freshman and junior years at the state forensics competition. He has also put his acting talents to work in the high school's productions of Beauty and the Beast and the Princess Bride.

To get McMeeken's attention, try fried chicken, although his kryptonite is ice cream; even better, Snickers ice cream. Not to overthink it, but ...

"Pomegranate seeds are amazing and that Actual Apple cider, that's pretty good too," added McMeeken.

When offered a chance to talk with any historical figure, McMeeken at first considered Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain, then true to form, leaned toward politics and Bernie Sanders, finally settling on the founding fathers.

"I'd want to talk to the founding fathers, that would be really cool. After taking so much American History and seeing what's going on now, it would be fun to debrief them on modern times and then see what they thought of things," said McMeeken.

His heroes are his parents, Mr. Potter and his grandfather.

"My grandpa, my mom's dad Pete, he passed. He had Alzheimer's so he was kind of fading away, but he was a really cool guy. Just hearing the stories about him, he lead by example," said McMeeken.

He also gives credit to his sister, Autumn, for setting an example for keeping an open mind.

"My sister. She's been a huge influence on me. She graduated in 2015. She's super nice. She keeps an open mind and tries to look at the whole picture, 'don't judge a book by its cover' type of thing. She's also good at knowing when to actually take a stand," said McMeeken.

McMeeken gets most of his advice from his mom. He says it's not always specific, a lot of it he learns from her example.

"'Never think you're better than anyone,' she would say. Everyone's got their stuff. You have to approach people with an open mind," said McMeeken.

He has taken her advice a step further.

"I've tried to never have an ego here. I never wanted things to go to my head because I knew I am going to enter the real world where no one cares who you are. You have to be a nice person and prove to them you are worth their time," said McMeeken.

He believes the one thing everyone should have regardless of the cost is education.

"Not everyone in the world has this opportunity. People will be better people if they are involved in thinking. Our schools, our school. It's what you make of it," said McMeeken.

Looking ahead, McMeeken is excited and a little anxious about living on his own, but looking forward to exploring the challenges ahead in Madison. Reflecting on what he might miss:...

"The friends I'm not going to see. The teachers I'm not going to see. Not necessarily the place, but the people."

Way to not overthink it McMeeken.