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Mound Whiz Kid Heads to Ivy League

In addition to having a perfect 4.0 grade point average, Julia Harrison is also a celebrated athlete and artist.

Julia Harrison, daughter of Susan and Ralph Harrison of Mound, was co-valedictorian of the 2011 Mound Westonka High School (MWHS) graduating class. She will attend Dartmouth College in New Hampshire this fall.

“Dartmouth was the only placed I applied,” said Harrison. “I applied early decision because of cross country and the academics, and I just loved it when I visited.”

Harrison was named a commended student by the National Merit Scholarship Program for earning PSAT scores among the top 5 percent in the nation. She was also recognized by the College Board for outstanding achievement on college-level Advanced Placement (AP) exams.

She took many AP classes at MWHS, but unfortunately won’t get credit for them at Dartmouth. The college also doesn’t give academic or athletic scholarships, but rather provides financial assistance based on need.

“They have such big donors who graduated from there that it’s probably less expensive for me to attend there than it would have been to attend a Minnesota school,” said Harrison.

According to the Dartmouth website, $82.2 million in financial aid was awarded to offset the total cost of attendance of $52,275 in 2010-2011.

Harrison lettered in three sports at MWHS, including cross country, track and Nordic skiing.

“It’s kind of the same group of kids for each team and we have a lot of fun,” said Harrison.

She participated in cross country and track from throughout high school. In cross country, Harrison went to State six consecutive years and was All-State for two of those years, which means she was one of the top 25 competitors in the conference. In track, she went to State three straight years and was All-State for two of those years. Her favorite events were the 800 and 1600 races. Harrison has run a half-marathon and says she may run a marathon in the future.

Harrison was on the Nordic Ski Club at MWHS before it became an official team in her junior and senior years. She went to State and was all-State both years.

She was one of 12 finalists for the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award, which recognizes seniors for their athletics, academics and community service and volunteered with the Special Olympics through 11th grade.

After her coach encouraged her to apply for the award online, she didn’t give it much thought until she was notified that she was a finalist.

“We took a trip to New York and met all of the other finalists,” said Harrison. “We got to go to the actual Heisman Award presentation and meet everyone.”

Ironically, the Arizona boy who won the award will also attend Dartmouth in the fall.

Harrison was also one of 53 female student athletes to win The Athena Award this year. The award is given to one senior from each metro-area high school "based on excellence in individual sports or for participation and accomplishments in team sports."

In addition to receiving a scholarship for The Athena Award, Harrison also received a Rotary scholarship.

She received another scholarship for winning The Triple A Award, which recognizes achievement in academics, art and athletics. The Minnesota State High School League gives this award to a senior boy and senior girl at each high school in Minnesota.

Even though she only started taking painting class in 9th grade, Harrison’s artwork has also won many awards. Her artwork received honorable mention in both the Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards and in the Third Congressional District Art Contest.  

One of her paintings is of Tallinn, Estonia. Harrison visited Estonia for two weeks last summer to stay with a foreign exchange student who spent the prior year at MWHS. She says she would love to go back again.

In addition to babysitting, Harrison is spending the summer training for cross country and Nordic skiing. She leaves for Dartmouth on August 31.

After she receives her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth, Harrison would like to attend medical school. She may want to be a surgeon or an emergency room physician.

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