WHS student heads to Washington, and Harvard


John Griffin During an AGORA Meeting

Phil Reidy

Everybody has lived through that experience of sitting next to the most intelligent kid in the class, the one who constantly raises their hand and rewards the class with their astounding knowledge of the matierial, leaving you dumbfounded. Seemingly super-human, it is understandable to feel intimidated by John Griffin (his full name being John Anthony Griffin III, a title he happily adorns), the epitome of the most elegant form of natural intelligence for his success and ability is something that is undoubtedly rare, even more so because he is only 18. But who really is John Griffin?

He is currently ranked number one in the Senior Class and is a highly active member of many organizations and general extraordinaire within and outside of the school. He is a member of Student Council, an accomplished pianist and member of the Jazz Band at the high school, a member of the Drama Club, an attendee of the political discussion group Agora, a supporting actor in the Adorn saga of Film Festival movies, fluent in multiple languages while attempting to add more to his repertoire, the president of National Honors Society, a choir boy at his Greek Orthodox church, and many others.  He was also recently selected to be the representative of Massachusetts in the United States Senate Youth Program, a program that chooses aspiring students who excel in their understanding of world events who receive the chance to meet the important members of the federal government. Recently, he is the most current Walpole High School student to declare for Harvard University.  Who is this extraordinary individual who seems to have done more in his 18 years of existence than some do in their entire lives? Who actually is this ambitious young man?

Surprisingly, he is not an alien creature sent as a delegate from a planet of super-smart beings, but is rather, quite human.

Born August 24, 1993, in Boston Mass., the oldest of three children, Griffin considered himself a strange child. He was eccentric, hyper, quick in speech, but strikingly intelligent and developing the semblance of a political view by the time he was in middle school. John was also obsessed with the caped crusader, Batman, to a rather unusual extent. “I was obsessed with Batman when I was little. I used to dress up as him every so often in kindergarten. I’m not sure when the obsession stopped, probably far too late in life, but he still occupies a dear place in my heart, and was featured in my college essay.”

From comically delightful beginnings, John’s life continued on its way as he came into the high school in 2008. John’s demeanor changed significantly, he said, from one slightly strange and hyperactive, to one much more soft, welcoming, and reserved. He found time to be in every advanced science and mathematics course offered at Walpole High School while fostering a passion for literature and poetry with his friend, Luke Witherell, also a senior at Walpole High, both of whom had entertaining conversations and antics in their Junior-year Honors English course with teacher Conor Cashman. “We used to sing Joni Mitchell a lot…[we] had fun basically pretending to torture him (Cashman)..and he in kind jokingly kicked me out of class a few times” John and Luke are good friends, who both enjoy poetry, literature, and general intellectual hobbies as well as sharing multiple classes together. Witherell said, “He is, without a doubt, the most driven person I know. Most intelligent people have a kind of unfeeling cynicism towards the world, but [he] turns that on its head by having a cautious optimism about the world.”

Griffin continued to join clubs and specialize in all things worldly and cultural in the high school, such as the Latin Club, and learned Spanish and French, speaking and understanding both fluently today. He also knows a large amount of Greek, a language that his grandparents speak and he has picked up on. John has two siblings, Mike, 15, a sophomore at Walpole High, and Katherine, 12, a student at Johnson Middle School. John’s family is an important aspect of his life and faith. “My family is very close, and I’ve always been able to count on them for support. I attribute most of who I am to them; my work ethic, my faith, my senses of compassion and duty to community: All have roots in my family. I’m especially thankful to have been able to be close to all four of my grandparents, and to have lived with two of them. I think that was very formative in terms of my personality.”

John is Greek and Irish, his Irish side having come over after the Potato Famine and his Greek side after the Ottoman Turks began to attack their home region of Smyrni, modern day Izmir, Greece, even killing some of John’s distant ancestors in the conflict, which fostered John’s early want to understand areas beyond his immediate surroundings, politically and socially. Much of John’s early interest for current issues and his want to understand them came from his family history as well as other things. “I was in the Geography Bee in middle school, and as part of preparing for that, I had to learn some stuff about current events. I realized that I was really interested in current events–especially on an international level and have been following them ever since.” John’s enjoyment of history and understanding of current issues is not just a casual interest for John, who finds that what occurs in the world local and far away is extremely important, and that it is his and others’ job to be informed on these issues so as to understand and influence them for the better. “I have a deep-held belief that it is the duty of every citizen in a democracy to keep well-informed. An ill-informed electorate does not constitute a democracy at all, because knowledge is power, and if the people do not have knowledge, they do not have power. An ill-informed electorate is like a herd of sheep, whereas a well-informed electorate is the hallmark of functioning democracy, a body that can peacefully and effectively effect change and safeguard liberty.” He excelled in AP History classes while dominating discussions in his International Relations class with Mr. Jean. “It’s one of my favorite classes. Jean also seems to believe my aforementioned belief about well-informed electorates, and it’s great to be able to go into a class and have it be devoted to discussing the world’s challenges in an intellectual and open environment.” His concern for world affairs seems to come from a deep and genuine sense of empathy, a love for the things he experiences and the people he meets. If anyone has a problem, John’s first instinct is assistance and understanding. This empathy is an aspect of his ability to not only know information but wrap his mind around it in a more intimate way than just plain knowledge of what it is.

John cares little for showing his appearance to be worthy, or really impressing anyone. The inadvertent pretension that occurs as a result of feigning intellect or ability never appears in the honest and genuine John, who is concerned more with dealing with problems in a peaceful and just way rather than just dealing with them. At just 18, John has organized many beneficial events within Walpole, including the Friends and Family of the 182nd Battalion, a program that collects supplies, writes thank you letters, and occasionally raises funds for Afghani children and a Massachusetts National Guard unit stationed in Afghanistan. With recent issues concerning the possibility of an override or removal of foreign language programs in the middle school, John has once again become a major voice in a local organization. “I’m active in Walpole Pride and it’s soon-to-be-announced affiliate group at WHS, WHS SOS: Support Our Schools. We’re working toward an override because we want to preserve or strengthen the quality of education found at [Walpole Schools] rather than see it diminish.”

John recently received two acceptance letters from Brown and Harvard, and has been accepted into other schools. John is probably one of the most driven and naturally gifted individuals I have ever met. But even though he is so unbelievably gifted, he is so connected with those around him. He is not guided by any desire to surpass others in skill but rather by a great feeling of love and want to improve the world he inhabits, a truly rare quality one does not find often, especially in an 18-year old high school student who is still living at home in Walpole.