MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Jared Kushner, 18
When you’re set to graduate as valedictorian of your senior class, being in clubs such as the honor society is usually expected because those near-perfect grades guarantee you the membership.
But what isn’t expected is when these same teenagers — such as Jared Kushner of Jupiter High School — are part of a club that they don’t have to be in, but one that they do because they truly want to. Kushner is part of Best Buddies, a Jupiter High group whose members mentor disabled students. You don’t have to have great grades to be a member. You just need a big heart.
Kushner has both.
This 18-year-old from Jupiter will graduate with a GPA of 3.9, which guarantees his spot as class valedictorian. While many valedictorians admit that earning this title was something they had eyed even their freshman year, Kushner said that being at the top of his class was never something he pined for.
He was just trying his best, and he happened to snag the prestigious spot.
“I am excited and really proud of myself because I have worked really hard the past four years. But it was never really a goal,” said Kushner, who is the son of Andrew and Stacy Kushner and brother of Ryan, 15, and Lindsey, 14.
Instead, he did what most kids do. He tried his best in his classes and still managed to enjoy time outside of school, like being a part of Best Buddies. The club has changed him for the better, he said, because it’s allowed him to see the good in everyone.
“A lot of people see disabled students as just disabled,” he said.
But not Kushner.
He spends his time bowling, playing games and shooting basketball with his buddies, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
He also spends his free time running, which is a sport that helps him physically and emotionally. Kushner has spent the past four years on the cross-country team and the past two years on the track team. Running, he said, is relaxing for him, and it helps him get rid of stress. The sport has also helped him gain some lifelong friends that he’s sure to miss when he goes to the University of Florida in the fall. He plans to major in applied physiology and kinesiology so he can study exercise science and become an orthopedic surgeon.
“Somehow I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to be a doctor and, as I got older, I figured out what specialty to go into,” he said.
But before he heads to Gainesville in August, Kushner will spend the summer working as a camp counselor for Camp Coleman, a Jewish summer camp in Georgia for third-graders to high school sophomores. He’s spent the past five summers there, and this will be his first as a counselor.
As Kushner looks back on his high school years, he said that he will miss his cross-country and track team moments the most because of all of the special friendships he made. And he had some advice for the younger teens who hope to graduate as valedictorian one day.
“Work your hardest in everything and challenge yourself. That’s probably how I’ve gotten here,” he said. “And don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
What are your hobbies?
I like to play basketball, baseball, and soccer. I also like going to the beach, wakeboarding, and spending time with my friends.
What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
I would spend the day in the White House sitting in on the president’s meetings.
If you could have dinner with anyone in history who would it be?
What is the best advice you ever received?
Dream big and work hard to accomplish your goals.
What event in history would you have liked to witness?
The signing of the Declaration of Independence
What is your favorite childhood memory?
Watching a baseball game at old Yankee Stadium with my dad
Who is your hero, someone who inspires you?
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I want to go on a road trip across the country to watch a baseball game at every Major League stadium.
What three things would you bring if you were stuck on a desert island?
My dogs, running shoes, a hammock