Three glowing young faces, fresh from an afternoon at the pool together, beamed at the Doolin dining-room table one evening last week, all chatting about their intertwined pasts and their shared honor Wednesday night — Forest Park Middle School’s Class of 2010 had three valedictorians: Regan Doolin and Nicole Walsh, both 14, and Jamie Quirk, 13.  All three had made National Junior Honor Society and then some. They each kept a straight-A average throughout their eighth-grade year. 

And though you might expect some competitive elbowing from three such high achievers, there wasn’t a smidgen of ego to be seen. The girls graciously encouraged one another to talk, briefly setting aside their post-pool pizza, each reminding the others of forgotten accomplishments. Now that school is out for the summer, the day’s most pressing business is choosing what movie to see at the Lake Theatre, with Shrek Forever the apparent the front-runner.

“We’ve always known each other!” announced Regan, a Garfield Elementary alum who is the daughter of Bonnie and Patrick Doolin.

Nicole, a charmingly freckled girl with stylish glasses and a mischievous smile, added, “We’re sometimes called The Three Musketeers,” referring to their love of band, sports and constant companionship. Nicole had gone to Betsy Ross Elementary and is the daughter of Margaret and William Walsh.

 “But what did your dad call us the other day?” Nicole asked as she swiveled toward Jamie, the Field Stevenson alum who is the daughter of Tammy and Bob Quirk.

“The Holy Trinity,” Jamie replied to giggles from the other two. 

This woodwind trio – Regan and Nicole play saxophone, Jamie plays clarinet – have indeed been friends a long time. But their current closeness really blossomed, Regan says, just before sixth grade, when they were chosen by their elementary schools to attend a three-day leadership camp in Lake Geneva, Wis.  Activities at the camp, which took place the weekend before their year in sixth grade started, cemented their friendship, jump-started their leadership qualities, and coincided with an intellectual, athletic, artistic and social blossoming that shows no sign of abating as the girls face their next challenge: high school.

Regan, who loves art, drawing and “anything creative” – a large totem-pole face she made is displayed on a sideboard – enjoys volleyball, softball and dance, and entertains ideas of becoming a fashion designer. She’s headed for Trinity High School in River Forest. Nothing to do with their nickname, though.

Jamie, a quiet girl with a lazy Labrador retriever at home, also likes volleyball and softball and admits she finds math “easy.”  She will be attending Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park. With a broad array of athletic, musical and scholarly achievement, she’s not ready to specialize.  When asked to describe herself, Jamie brightens as she replies, “I love animals.” She and Nicole, who’s also going to Nazareth, snicker when it’s pointed out that they chose a co-ed school while Regan will be at an all-girl institution. But all three seem to accept their coming separation with a mature resignation. 

Nicole, who is from a large family and has been playing soccer since preschool, intends to try out for lacrosse. She says she knows she wants to be a lawyer. “I like to argue with people and I like to think I win a lot,” she said, noting a few social-studies class debate victories with visible satsfaction.   A Law and Order fan, Nicole also finds the idea of detective work appealing.

What the valedictorians had to say at commencement

Jamie Quirk, Nicole Walsh and Regan Doolin each spoke at the commencement ceremony, reminding classmates of good times and silly incidents, thanking their parents and teachers, and looking toward the future.

Regan left her classmates with a couple of things to think about.  One was the Shel Silverstein poem “Frozen Dream:”

“I’ll take the dream I had last night
And put it in my freezer,
So someday long and far away
When I’m an old grey geezer,
I’ll take it out and thaw it out,
This lovely dream I’ve frozen,
And boil it up and sit me down
And dip my old cold toes in.”

The other, a proverb often attributed to Dr. Seuss: “Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.”