Carlisle’s Renaissance man heads for bigger stage at Harvard

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Max Allison did a little bit of everything in high school. He's excited for a new adventure in college.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Max Allison’s Carlisle High School resume speaks for itself — valedictorian, multisport athlete, class president, lead in the school play. But when he added Harvard and other top universities to the state schools on his college application list, he had no idea what to expect.

“I had no frame of reference on where I’d be going,” Allison said. “It’s just a dice roll. Who are they looking for? Are they looking for someone from your demographic? I could either get in, or I could have zero percent chance.”

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It turns out he had more than a chance, as he was accepted everywhere he applied (except for Yale, where he was wait-listed). He called it “a huge shock,” but now Carlisle’s Renaissance man is headed to Harvard in the fall.

Asked if he was more intimidated or excited to start at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, Allison didn’t hesitate for a second.

“I’m so pumped. I am unbelievably stoked,” he said. “I really like the thrill of meeting new people and going new places. I’ll be pretty excited — it’ll be liberating to be by myself.”

Carlisle High School valedictorian Max Allison will attend Harvard University next fall. Allison got involved in theater at Carlisle and was the lead in the musical "Newsies." STAFF PHOTO / JEREMY P. KELLEY
Carlisle High School valedictorian Max Allison will attend Harvard University next fall. Allison got involved in theater at Carlisle and was the lead in the musical "Newsies." STAFF PHOTO / JEREMY P. KELLEY

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

Allison’s love for the small Warren County village of Carlisle is easy to see. Whether it means the chance to play five different sports over his high school career, or to know nearly everyone, or to have the same Spanish teacher for four years, Allison said, “I’m blessed to come from the place that I do.”

School officials are equally proud of Allison — front office staff quickly touted his virtues to a visitor, and Principal Dave Slamer said beyond his academics, Allison is just “a very engaging young man.”

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Chemistry teacher Jenny Henry said she advanced Allison straight to Chem II and saw him thrive with students two years older. She said in one group presentation, after commanding a theatrical silence, Max broke out in a comical (but accurate) beat-box routine he designed on the history of the atom.

“Five months or so later, in true Max fashion, he shocked us all by rattling off the entire presentation from memory on a random request,” Henry said.

Allison has played sports from a young age. Football was his favorite, as his middle linebacker role allowed him to combine athleticism and intellect as he organized the defense. But a consistent run of injuries led him to reluctantly step away from the sport before his junior year.

He played golf, made all-Southwestern Buckeye League teams in tennis and soccer and set a school record as a swimmer. He loves sports and never saw himself as a theater kid … until he tried it.

“I was like, ‘I’m not doing that. That’s not my thing,’” Allison said. “Then I got into it, and that was kind of the moment where I was like, I really can just go and do anything, try anything. … This is super fun.”

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He said his favorite role was playing Jack Kelly as the lead in the musical “Newsies,” adding that theater has become one of his favorite things.

Allison is a star, and he admitted going to Harvard “is a bit of a flex,” but he said his friends keep him grounded with the occasional “OK, Harvard boy” reminder.

But Allison is pretty grounded on his own. He said he has liked working at Phil’s Auto shop, a Carlisle fixture. It started in seventh grade when he volunteered to handle their social media, and it evolved into him mowing the lawn, cleaning the grease trap and other duties.

“There’s not a lot of handy people in my family, so it was a perfect opportunity for me to surround myself with that stuff and learn, OK, this is how you change the oil in the car,” he said.

He’ll move to a different type of technology at Harvard, where he plans to study applied math and/or computer science. He likes math but isn’t sure what he wants to do with it.

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“The thing that’s more exciting to me is the idea that there are fields out there that I have no idea about that I can explore and take those classes,” Allison said.

His parents, Heather and Shane, both work in schools, and Max said his mom, a guidance counselor, was very helpful with his college search.

Sometimes he had to push for things at Carlisle, like petitioning for an Advanced Placement calculus class that hadn’t existed. But he said many teachers helped him grow. He cited Rachel Castro, who taught him Spanish for four years, and Jenny Henry in chemistry, whom he called the embodiment of an educator who pushes kids to elevate themselves.

They’re excited to see his next step, too.

“Between his fierce intelligence, his great sense of humor, and his ability to be the most liked guy in any room, Max is just simply a cool dude,” Henry said. “I cannot wait to brag that I played a part in his life once he’s left his mark on the world.”

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