Student, 18, is both a scientist, artist at heart



Hermione Granger from Harry Potter is Alexandra Haagaard’s idol. “We’re both brainiacs,” said Haagaard.



Alexandra Haagaard isn’t your typical 18-year-old.

While many girls her age are modelling themselves after Paris Hilton, Haagaard admits her idol is Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books.

“I am a very big Harry Potter fan. I would say that I’m like Hermione. We’re both brainiacs,” she gushes.

But to call her a brainiac seems like an understatement. This year, she graduated from Port Perry High School with an average of 98.3 per cent — and the bragging rights of having the highest marks of any graduating student in the Durham District School Board.

But to Haagaard, this is an achievement she’s earned.

“There have been times I’ve felt it would be nice to go with a little lower average and (be able to) go out but I always came back to studying. I enjoy studying, and lots of people don’t see where I’m coming from because they think I’m a martyr,” she said.

Glen Rideout, the science department head and a teacher at Port Perry High for the past 28 years, admits he first knew Haagaard was smarter than he was after she gave a thorough class presentation on Stephen Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time.

“She explained parts (of the book) to the class that I didn’t even understand. It’s a book about theoretic physics,” he chuckled.

At the time, Haagaard was only in Grade 9.

But she says even when she was much younger, she knew perhaps she was brighter than most of her classmates.

“In Grade 2, I got really bored (during class),” she said.

Now, Haagaard is saving money for university by working part-time at the Meta4 Contemporary Craft Gallery in Port Perry, making and selling jewelry. In between shifts, she paints.

She says she loved growing up in a small community.

“Port Perry used to be a big retirement town and I didn’t mind it because up to last year, our family used to live on Scugog Island, which is connected to the town. We lived right at the end of the island, which was 20 minutes out of town, but I’d go out and paint the sunset every night.”

This summer, she was chosen to participate in a mentorship program at the University of Toronto, giving her the first taste of working in a science lab at the Toronto Western Hospital.

Come September, she will move downtown and study in the life sciences program at the University of Toronto in hopes of pursuing a career in biology, specializing in the molecular basis of diseases. But making this decision was tough for Haagaard, who says she’s both a scientist and artist at heart.