David Francescone looks forward to the next stage of his life with excitement and a little anxiety. VALLEY DISPATCH/GAYLE SIMONE
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METHUEN — As 18-year-old senior David Francescone scanned the cafeteria at Methuen High School on May 25, his last full day, he realized what he would miss the most about high school is the friendships.

“I looked around and realized how much had changed,” Francescone said. “When I started at this school I sat at a certain table, because I was new. Then when I got more popular I moved to another table. Then it was meeting my first girlfriend and new friends. It was like I had a whole life at Methuen High School and now I will start a new one at college.”

Though Francescone is the valedictorian for the Class of 2006, it would have been fine with him if he had not achieved that scholarly honor.

“I was really surprised when I found out,” Francescone said. “I always thought it would be cool, but I didn’t want to have to write a speech. If Lindsay (Cyr) had gotten it, it would have been great. Now, I have to write a stupid speech.”

Stupid or not, Francescone doesn’t plan to prepare much for when he takes the stage on June 2.

“I told Mrs. Krusell, the head of the English department, that I was going to wing it when she asked me if I wanted help writing my speech,” Francescone said. “I’m just going to say how I feel and have fun.”

Francescone will attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall after receiving the Rensselaer Medal his junior year. The Rensselaer Medal is an annual $15,000 scholarship awarded to juniors who have distinguished themselves in math and science.

Francescone was trying to decide between Boston University and RPI and ultimately the physics program at RPI won out.

“I really love the city (of Boston), which is why I wanted to go to BU,” Francescone explained. “But the departments have so much more to offer at Rensselaer. And the classes would be smaller, which is what I want. More one-on-one attention.”

Heading to Troy, N.Y., for school is something Francescone has mixed feelings about.

“I don’t know if I’m 90 percent excited and 10 percent scared or 90 percent scared and 10 percent excited,” Francescone said. “I have a little comfy zone I created at Methuen High School. But I’m sure it will be fun.”

Francescone has aspirations of winning the Nobel Prize.

“I want to figure out how to connect the four forces,” Francescone said. “I already know strong, weak, electromagnetic and gravity. Now I just need to connect them.”

Upon graduating from RPI, Francescone wants to attend graduate school and write his Ph.D. thesis on the Grand Unification Theory (GUT).

“That’s all I’d have to do (to win the Nobel Prize),” Francescone said. “Complete the connection. It shouldn’t be too tough.”

Francescone laughed as he explained his future plans knowing just how complex GUT really is.

“Figuring things out is just so much fun,” Francescone said. “I can do a Rubik’s Cube in under two minutes.”

Leaving MHS gives Francescone plenty of memories, including his favorite teacher, Dr. Daniel Burton, who died this year after a battle with cancer.

“He was the smartest man I have ever known,” Francescone said. “I didn’t realize it until after I took his class and then had other teachers after that.”

As a freshman, Francescone was in Burton’s honors biology class. This year, Francescone won the Dr. Burton Award for the highest science score.

“I won the history award as a junior,” Francescone said. “But the Dr. Burton Award was so cool. It had a lot of meaning to me.”

Another staple in MHS that Francescone will miss is Principal Arthur Nicholson.

“Mr. Nick, I think he’s the man,” Francescone said. “He’s the first person to come in here and be strict and still have everyone love him. He’s the dad of the school. He will do anything and everything for you, but demands respect at the same time. He’s like my second dad.”

Saying goodbye to friends is something Francescone doesn’t enjoy.

“It doesn’t really hit you until you see everyone in front of you cry,” Francescone said. “Like when Dierdre (Pomerleau), my best friend since kindergarten, came into one of my classes yesterday, she was crying and it hit me.”

Methuen is big enough to have four grammar schools, and not until high school are all the kids in the community in the same school. For that reason, Francescone claims growing up in Methuen is rewarding.

“It makes you stronger than you realize,” Francescone explained. “It’s like going into a mini college, which probably prepares you better for real college.”

Francescone is prepared now to take his memories, determination and aspirations to RPI and connect those forces together while seeking out a Nobel Prize.