Madi Mailutha shines bright as eighth-grade RKA valedictorian


Victoria Madison Mailutha is this year’s Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy eighth-grade valedictorian, though she prefers the name Madi. She runs, she plays piano, she’s 14 and she describes herself as creative, hardworking and empathetic.

The journey to valedictorian was several years in the making and has been a difficult one for Madi Mailutha.
She has been learning the piano since she was two years old and, to date, her favorite piece is Arabesque by Claude Debussy. She said she finds the piece playful and it resonates with how she feels about her own journey with piano.

Her father, Mike Mailutha, said Madi showed an affinity for the piano at a very young age, prompting he and her mother to sign her up for lessons that have made her proficient in the instrument as she continues her studies.
Madi Mailutha said she’s excited for high school because of the opportunity to integrate her love for piano and music with her studies. Up until now, piano has been an extracurricular but she wants it to be a bigger part of her life.

“It was difficult for me to find a good group of friends that I thought I could identify with and belong to,” she said.

When she started her studies at Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy in the sixth grade, Madi felt she’d finally found people she could connect with and befriend.

Her father said she’s received straight A’s for the duration of her time at RKA. Mike Mailutha said his daughter’s social studies teacher called him, asking him to look at her most recent essay because the teacher had never seen a student write so well.

He said the essay was not just advanced in format but both he and the teacher found Madi’s thoughts to be profound and mature.

Madi’s paternal grandfather was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that affects white blood cells.
“I was already having a hard time handling my job,” Mike Mailutha said, “I couldn’t imagine this young girl managing school and still being able to do all the things that are required and end up with a 100 in every single class. It was extraordinary, I couldn’t believe it.”

Madi described her relationship with her grandfather as close. She said her grandparents lived in Riverdale, which meant she saw them often and she and her grandfather would hang out and talk.

“He helped me learn cursive,” she said.

Madi’s thoughts on impending grief reignited her father’s belief in her maturity.

“Over time, you eventually heal and it does stay with you,” Madi said. “It has been a very difficult mental hurdle to overcome.”

Mike Mailutha said, while his father was ill, he stayed in their home under hospice care, being tended to by the family and most notably, Madi. He said she would come home from school and sit by her grandfather’s bedside completing her schoolwork and watching over him.

Her grandfather died during her sixth-grade year.

Madi continued to care for her grandmother during this time as she fell into bereavement over the loss of her husband, whom she knew since the age of 12. Mike Mailutha said the tragedy was especially difficult for him, but his daughter became a very strong and supportive person during that hard time.

And then he would need her even more.

Earlier this year, and very suddenly, Mike found himself in the hospital and Madi is once again finishing school and going to sit bedside, this time while completing her homework and studying for her auditions for LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan.

“I was so heartbroken I couldn’t take her to the audition, but she went and did very well,” Mike Mailutha said.
Madi said her father has played an influential role in her academic life, teaching her subjects at home before she is introduced to them at school. She said it was their own enrichment program, and she is confident these lessons helped advance her in her studies.

Inside school, she said she committed to having a close and open relationship with teachers, as she felt that was most successful for her.

Next fall, Madi will begin classes at LaGuardia High School. Long-term, she said she’s considering taking up a career in chamber music or journalism.

“She’s a very humble, kind, and caring young girl, and she just has a good heart,” Mike Mailutha said.

Madi Mailutha, Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy, valedictorian, eighth-grade, piano prodigy, LaGuardia High School, academic excellence, personal challenges, resilience, creative, hardworking, empathetic, chamber music, journalism.