Leo Craig Selected as Harvard-Westlake’s Valedictorian

Valedictorian Leo Craig speaking at the Harvard-Westlake graduation.

When 289 students graduated from Harvard-Westlake on June 7, the valedictorian was Palisades resident Leo Craig.

During the ceremony, his speech centered around David Brooks’ book “The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.” After reading a review of the book, “it that convinced me I needed to read it,” Craig said and noted that in the book, Brooks explores the four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose: spouse and family, vocation, to a philosophy or faith, and to a community.

Craig was asked if that wasn’t an antithesis to some schools, where individualism is emphasized. “I definitely want to share the book and my viewpoint on the first/second mountain divide with my classmates, in hopes some of them will find it interesting and look more into Brooks’s ideas.

“The book influenced the way I see my own purpose in life,” said Craig, who had a 4.0 unweighted GPA at the end of his senior year and was a national merit Scholarship finalist (one of 34 at HW). The school has changed some class designations from APs to honors, but his course work still included seven APs.

When asked his favorite classes, it appears that Craig could be considered a renaissance man. “I loved my European and world history classes,” he said. “As well as my 11th and 12th grade English classes and my biology and physics classes.”

Craig also played trumpet in the school’s jazz band. This spring he was awarded the Jerry Margolis Jazz award by Harvard-Westlake, for a student who contributed to the jazz program during his time at the school. “My favorite jazz song right now, and it constantly changes,” he said, “is probably ‘Firm Roots’ by Cedar Walton.” He plans to play in college.

He was also the captain of the school’s cross-country team, and he ran track. “The toughest aspect of high school was definitely balancing the workload of school and athletics, which ended up being difficult but manageable,” Craig said, who plans to continue to run, but not on a collegiate team. Many may remember he was third in the 4th of July Will Rogers 10K in 2023.

He had a wide number of colleges to select from, but “I chose Yale because of its welcoming atmosphere; it felt a lot less competitive than some other schools I looked into,” Craig said.
I’m excited to join that community. Yale also has great classes and programs related to my academic interests, which I’m excited to start next year. “

He plans to major in environmental studies and last fall won a Kutler Center Junior Fellowship grant of $4,000 to travel to Uintah Basin, Utah to study the effects of green energy conversion on local regions dependent on the oil and gas industries. The indigenous Ute Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, who are economically dependent on the local oil and gas industry, would be most affected by the green energy transition projects, Craig said.

“In talking to them, I learned that it’s very important to take their perspectives into account when planning and executing these necessary green energy projects, since they will be the ones most heavily impacted,” he said. “More planning is needed to provide Basin residents, and especially Ute tribe members, with opportunities to become integrated within the green economy and mitigate as much economic pain as possible.”

He also interned last summer with Metro, co-leading a team of 15 , who developed a virtual model of smart city improvements to be made to Los Angeles. His group won first place in the Smart City team competition.

Craig was asked about the current problems that Metro is facing. “I think that the perception of LA’s public transit being unsafe significantly hurts ridership, and that perception will stay, no matter how actually safe the system is, until Metro takes more steps to combat it,” Craig said. “They’ve already made improvements with the hiring of Metro Ambassadors who stand in stations, and I think that more improvements towards that goal will help improve the perception.”

Craig attended Village School through sixth grade, before attending Harvard-Westlake. His dad is Ryan,his mom Yahlin, and he has two younger brothers, Hal and Zev. And of course, the family includes Henry, the dog.


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One Response to Leo Craig Selected as Harvard-Westlake’s Valedictorian

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