Youth Profile: Bluffton’s Novak headed to Harvard

By Sam Shriver -

BLUFFTON — Danielle Novak, an 18-year-old graduate of Bluffton High School, will soon be entering Harvard University.

While at the Ivy League school, Novak plans on studying linguistics or possibly neurolinguistics, the language of the brain.

Novak was one of 13 valedictorians at Bluffton this year.

She also scored a perfect 36 on her ACT test in 2019.

“I’ve been studying for the ACT since the sixth grade. I got the 36 on my fourth time taking it. I never imagined when I started studying for the ACT that would ever be something I would do, so it was definitely really exciting when I finally did it,” Novak said.

Novak was involved in a variety of activities while at Bluffton High School.

She was on the soccer team all four years.

“I was definitely never super good at it, but it was something that after I’d done it for so many years on, starting in U-6, I just felt like I had to continue doing it just because I wanted to be able to have done it the whole time in school,” Novak said.

Novak was also in the student senate, serving as vice president her junior year and as president her senior year. She also served on the school’s academic team.

While she didn’t participate in band or choir, she loved playing the piano.

“I have taken piano lessons since I was like 9 or 10 years old, I guess, and I was a piano teacher in early 2017 to early 2020. Playing piano is definitely one of the things I love doing as a hobby, not so much like difficult technical pieces but more improvising and just playing kind of whatever,” she said.

Novak also had an experience visiting Slovenia prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My paternal grandparents are originally from Slovenia. They moved to the United States when they were in their early 20s, and so their family members are still in Slovenia. My mother is a professor, and we have visited Slovenia just for family trips in the past. She formed relationships with some of the professors there at the university, and she wanted to go back to Slovenia to do research and use those relationships she had already formed to help her do that. I finished school (at Bluffton) after the first semester, so I went with her to Slovenia, and we were there for about two months. It got cut short because of the pandemic, and we did not want to get stuck there,” Novak said.

What she did learn gave her some inspiration to pursue linguistics.

“I started studying the Slovenian language. I’m still taking individual lessons online. It’s really cool because now I can text some of my relatives actually in Slovene,” Novak said.

She hoping to use her interest in linguistics to possibly become a professor or a researcher.

“I’m interested in doing neurolinguistics research specifically,” Novak said.

By Sam Shriver

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

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