Former Classmates Are Sharing What Happened To Their School's "Smart Kid," And The Valedictorian-To-Prison Pipeline Is Kind Of Concerning

    "I saw our valedictorian at our high school reunion last year. He drove his Tesla back to our small ass town, and he looked like a fish out of water. It was hilarious."

    Note: This post contains mentions of alcohol and drug abuse.

    You would think the "smart kid" you graduated with would go on to do, well, smart things. I learned that's not always the case when I recently wrote about classmates revealing what happened to the smart ones in their graduating class. And wow, even more of y'all shared where the smart kid in your own life is now:

    1. "The smartest kid in my high school was a kid I'd gone to school with since we were in the fourth grade. His parents were constantly on him to do more, get high grades, and follow in their footsteps and his grandparent's footsteps as a lawyer. He was always a bit of an odd duck and hated exercise or going outside. I looked him up recently — he ended up in South America for a while, working as a medical intern at a surgery before moving to New Zealand and becoming a member of a startup company. Now, he is a professional guide who does mountaineering trips in the US. He looks and sounds so much happier than he ever did when he was living under his parent's thumbs."

    yearbook photo with text 'most likely to mountaineer'

    2. "I took the classic 'former gifted kid' route into depression, anxiety, and low-salary, unambitious adulthood. When I was 30 years old, I trained in a professional healthcare job that I love. Now, I don't worry about money month-to-month, which still feels like success to me."

    "Honestly I think being smart at school meant I never learned how to persist with something difficult because I found academic stuff easy in general. I didn't take time to identify and build on my strengths because none stood out. And it took me a long time to learn how to dust myself off after a failure. 

    If you have smart kids, make sure you make something else important besides grades."


    3. "The smartest guy was our class president. He moved to San Francisco after graduation and had an accidental drug overdose a year later. He was such a friendly, nice guy. His quote in the yearbook for our senior year was, ‘What a long strange trip it’s been.' He was a 'deadhead' who [loved] The Grateful Dead, wore tie-dye every day, and was just a down-to-earth nice guy who was also incredibly smart. Rest in peace, Tim Smith."


    4. "The smartest girl in my school was a typical mean girl. She thought so much of herself. She went on Big Brother and was not liked. She was voted out by an overwhelming majority. Based on her Twitter, she's a gossip-heavy micro-influencer. She was on a couple more reality TV shows since Big Brother, and tags a lot of magazines in her tweets."

    cole barnett on "love is blind" with text 'Most Likely To Be 
On A Reality Show'

    5. "Our valedictorian went on to discover a new element, started a science company, and now works at Cal-Tech. They're still one of the nicest and most caring people I’ve ever met!"


    6. "My wife was the smartest kid in our high school and she was my sweetheart back then, 30 years ago. She was raised in a cult and traveled from commune to commune all over the world. When they ended up in Oregon, she asked her mother if she could go to an actual high school, so she could pursue her dreams of going to college and earn a degree in political journalism. Her mother said she needed her home to be with her younger siblings and to help raise them. So, she forged her mother’s signature to get into school. When she tested in, she scored so high it advanced her two years as a senior. She went to one year of high school, then graduated. After earning her master's, she went on to become one of the lead AI voice technology designers in the world. She helped create Google Home."

    yearbook photo with text 'most likely to escape a cult'

    7. "The smartest kid in my high school wasn’t valedictorian. He slept through tons of classes, but he would wake up, take the tests and quizzes, and pass with flying colors. I, on the other hand, struggled to pass my classes. During tests, he would purposely move his test so I could see the answers. He graduated high school and we all knew he could’ve ruled the world. Then one day, he went cliff jumping with some friends — he got caught in a current and drowned. We weren’t very close but I still think about him often. He was only 20 years old, and didn’t even get a chance to make his mark on the world."


    8. "Our valedictorian became a nun right after graduation."

    yearbook photo of graduate with text "Most Likely To Praise Jesus"

    9. "I saw our valedictorian at our high school reunion last year. He was still cocky as ever, but I can't deny he's a nice guy. He works for NASA now. He drove his Tesla back to our small ass town, and he looked like a fish out of water. It was hilarious. And I guess he's rich enough since he bought $700 worth of alcohol for our after-party."

    photo of Elon Musk with text 'most likely to pay for twitter blue'

    10. "Our valedictorian was arrested and convicted of kidnapping."


    11. "The valedictorian in my class had a natural mind for testing and getting good grades and soaked up praise from teachers. Then, college and adulthood hit him hard when there was no longer a system that provided clear instructions and easy validation. He realized decisiveness was not his strong suit. He worked a lot of random jobs, and eventually settled into a comfortable middle-of-the-road career. He has a family and decent, quiet life — far from the most materially successful in the class, and far from the worst, too. I'm talking about me."


    12. "I was the smartest in my year group by a significant margin, if grades are the only thing you go by. I got PTSD from a car crash when I was 17 years old, which kicked a bunch of previously somewhat manageable mental issues into overdrive. I struggled through university and never finished. I did all my assignments and exams, but just couldn't face my dissertation. I got married to the guy I started dating when I was 17, and was mostly a housewife for nearly a decade. I spent most of the time at home bored out of my mind, bouncing between video games, Netflix, and YouTube. I'm finally turning things around, though. Last year I realized I'm a lesbian. I left my marriage, moved in with an amazing woman, got a stable job, and learned that the disorganization and distractedness I've been scolded for my entire life were due to undiagnosed ADHD. Things are finally coming together, and I've never been happier."

    yearbook photo with text 'most likely to bounce back'

    13. "He became a chiropractor and had his own practice. This past march, he got arrested for driving the wrong way down the highway and was given his sixth DUI. He’s in prison now because the judge was sick of seeing him all the time. He really is a smart guy, just an alcoholic."

    "Hope he gets the help he needs."


    14. "I was the second-highest academic achiever in my year level at school. My transition in adulthood was a shock, when I realized some of the 'dumb' students from my school were actually very intelligent in their own way. I also have found from following my classmates journeys on social media over the past few years that how someone's life turns out often has nothing at all to do what their school life was like. One of the 'brainy' guys ended up going to Europe to do circus training. Some of the 'idiots' I knew at school now have very lucrative IT careers. And the friendly class-clown became a pastor, who is in prison for abusing pre-teens."

    'most likely to have an epiphany'

    15. "I graduated at the top of my class. After undergrad, I spent the rest of my 20s traveling the world and doing random odd jobs in various foreign countries. I went back to school at 30 to get my master's, and I'm only just now embarking on something resembling a career. Compared to many of my peers, I'm 'behind' in terms of finances, career, and relationships. But I don't feel behind. I feel extremely fortunate that I had the opportunity to chase my dreams and have fabulous adventures. If I die tomorrow, I'm glad I climbed the Eiffel Tower and went snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. I have the rest of my life to sit in an office."


    16. "I became friends with a woman in college who was effortlessly brilliant and had a huge personality — she didn't fear anything. She went on to become a literal rocket scientist for NASA. Eventually, the pressures of trying to maintain a life in an overly-priced big city became too much. She sold everything she had, moved to a commune in Hawaii, and just danced. She was a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance as one of the 'funny rejects' because she wasn’t particularly talented or trained, but they were super kind and supportive of her. She just loved to dance and wanted to share it with the world."

    jojo siwa with text 'most likely to dance to the beat of their own drum'

    17. "Our valedictorian was working at a convenience store to save up money for college. Then, two stupid people robbed the convenience store and killed him in the process."


    18. "I graduated with two degrees, cum laude in both. I worked as an accountant, then project manager for a major insurance company. My career was not in either field I graduated from. It also wasn’t fulfilling, but it did pay more than enough, and had a generous vacation policy, which allowed me to travel and live out most of my childhood dreams. I retired at 37 to have my baby and be a full-time mom. I couldn’t be happier."


    19. "My family friend graduated with some of the top grades in the whole country and loads of awards. He even got offered a full-ride scholarship to Duke. But he couldn't keep it up. He flamed out, and got his scholarship revoked. He also fell in with a rich crowd who wanted to ski in Switzerland and spend summers in Cancun. He put his parents into debt trying to keep up with them. His parents pulled him out of a bad spot in Thailand two years later."

    yearbook photo with text 'most likely to become a slam poet'

    20. "I ended up getting my doctorate. Then, I realized I hated what I was doing. I kept working though because I made great money that allowed me to support my biological family. I became really depressed and started going to therapy to address all the abuse from them. I met a couple of nurses at many doctor appointments. I admired them and wanted to be like them. So at 38 years old, I went back to school for nursing. I'm much happier and love what I do. I make half of what I used to, and that’s okay because I don’t cry going in to work anymore."

    yearbook photo with text 'most likely to be happy in their 40s'

    What happened to the "smart kid" of your school? Let us know where they (or you) are at in the comments!

    Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.