Where are they Now? — Abby Burke

2015 Alum discusses life after CHS.

Saanya Agarwal, Co-Editor in Chief

This is the start of our “Where are they Now?” alumni series. A few times each quarter, the Sandscript will be profiling new alumni that excelled academically, athletically, and professionally.


Class of 2015’s Abby Burke is one of the numerous alumni that made Chesterton High School proud. Not only did she graduate number two in her class, but she also compiled a series of impressive accomplishments during her time here. As a debater, Burke was a three time district champ in two different events. She qualified for nationals three times. Moreover, she was a star singles player on the girl’s varsity tennis team while also participating in orchestra, natural helpers, student government, and Japanese club during her time at CHS. Burke later went on to major in history at the prestigious Harvard University. She was accepted through an early action decision just before Christmas of her senior year. Now, she is attending the University of Virginia to study law. 

The Sandscript sat down with the alumnus, and Burke looked back on her memories at Chesterton very fondly. 

“I loved CHS. I thought that high school was a great experience. Debate, in particular, was a huge highlight for me. I loved the coaches and team dynamics. I even remember playing cards in between rounds or swimming and watching movies at overnight tournaments,” said Burke.

Chesterton’s renowned debate program has been a huge facet of Burke’s life. She dedicated several hours each day after school towards writing cases, perusing copious amounts of articles, and improving her speaking abilities. Additionally, Burke spent most of her Saturdays competing at tournaments. Although debate was a massive time commitment, she made countless close friends throughout the years while also leaving a memorable mark on the coaches who taught her. 

Mr. Lowery, her debate coach, exclaims, “What made Abby special was that she was both high ability but an academic achiever. She was easily capable of doing the work, but she also wanted to go to the highest level that she could.” 

While Mr. Lowery was one of Abby’s debate coaches, he was also one of her teachers in the International Baccalaureate program along with newly retired Mr. Neuliep. 

“I also really liked the teachers I had in the IB program. I had Mr. Lowery and Mr. Neuliep for some classes, which was always a good time. I especially remember Mr. Neuliep because he would give us popcorn a couple times a week from the stash he kept in his classroom,” laughed Burke.

Abby also delineated many phenomenal skills she learned at CHS that helped establish a sturdy foundation for her Harvard studies.

“Writing is typically the majority of what you will be doing in your college classes. Almost all the finals are either final papers or answering questions with very lengthy responses. Knowing how to think critically about certain topics in a way that makes sense to the people that are reading them is incredibly important, and I think CHS prepared me for that very well,” explained Burke.

To wrap up her high school experience, Burke stated a few words of wisdom in hopes that current CHS students would listen to them. She first emphasized the importance of having a good balance of schoolwork and fun in high school.

“I actually ran into a lot of people at college who did not have good high school experiences. I feel like the problem is that they always pushed themselves way too hard and didn’t have fun in high school. However, I’m really thankful that I did spend a lot of time making memories and hanging out with my friends, and I encourage others to do so too,” Burke remarked.

During our conversation, Burke discovered that not everything at CHS is the same as she left it.  She caught wind of some of the newer classes at CHS that have been added in the last couple years.  Burke noted that she only wishes she could have taken some of these.

“I think there were definitely fewer AP classes offered during my time at Chesterton. I do wish that I knew more about computer science because it’s definitely really interesting, and I feel like it intersects with practically every career,” added Burke.

Although she did miss out on some great classes currently offered at CHS, Abby’s hard work clearly paid off as she was accepted into several major colleges. Although most would immediately commit to Harvard upon acceptance, Burke made sure to properly assess the pros and cons of each college in order to insure the best outcome.

“For me, the most important deciding factor was the visit. I visited a couple of schools, but Harvard was just the one that I clicked with the most. I liked the feel of the campus and how the students all mostly lived together,” said Burke. “I also liked the area around it. It’s in Cambridge, so it’s right next to Boston. You can easily get there on public transportation, so there is a ton to still do there. However, it’s not so urban right on campus.” 

Unlike schools such as Columbia and New York University, Harvard has students living quite close to each other instead of being scattered throughout a city. Students also live on campus for all four years, creating a tight knit community. 

“I think my happiest memories are probably from my house. During your freshman year, everyone lives together in freshman dorms that are closer to all of the academic buildings. Then, in March, everyone gets sorted into an upperclassmen house, and you live there for the next three years,” explain Burke. “They are basically like little communities with their own dining halls, gyms, and libraries. In our house, we had this fun tradition of holiday celebrations before finals on December 1st, and we had speeches by the dean, food, and even little strength or talent competitions.”

Overall, Harvard has been an amazing experience for Abby. Now, she is in her final year of law school at the University of Virginia, and it’s quite clear that she’s going to be adding many more noteworthy feats to her already large collection.