Southie Sports Paved the Way for Adam Alto

By Ginger DeShaney

The wisdom Adam Alto gained from growing up in Southie will serve him well as he heads to the Ivy League’s Dartmouth College this fall. 

“I’ll definitely continue the work ethic that I’ve learned from Southie,” said Adam, who is a senior at Belmont Hill School. “There’s a lot of lessons that I’ve learned here — not just through school but through sports, through being with my friends — that I’ll bring there.”

The son of Carrie and Peter Alto plans to make some close friends at Dartmouth. “It really helped me in Southie,” Adam said. “I’ve known the kids I play hockey with and the kids I’m really close friends with since before I can remember. That’s really helped me along the way. They’ve always been there, they’ve always had my back and I’ve always had their back, and I’m going to try to do that at Dartmouth, too.”

Adam’s athletic career started in Southie way back when he was 5 years old. He’s played hockey, baseball, football, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. He played four years of football at Belmont Hill and still plays South Boston Youth Hockey.

“No kids that I am friends with in Southie went to my high school,” Adam said. “The only real connection I had was through sports. So, I think that’s really allowed me to strengthen my connection with the town.” 

There are similarities between working hard in sports and working hard in school, said Adam, who has been involved in several projects over the years that have given back to the community — including Boston to Belfast with his Southie hockey teammates that was part community service, part playing hockey.

“Sports in Southie have definitely paved the road for me,” he said.

Adam has learned a lot from Southie legends of earlier generations, such as Bobby McGarrell, who has been Adam’s South Boston Youth Hockey coach from Mites all the way through Midgets — from age 8 to 18. Bobby has been in Adam’s corner from the beginning. One day Adam hopes to give back to the Southie community as much as Bobby has given back.

Adam applied early decision to Dartmouth. After graduating from Belmont Hill School — he currently has a 4.1 grade-point average — Adam plans to study science, with a focus on research, or environmental studies at Dartmouth.

His favorite classes in high school are science- and math-based. A biology class two years ago was his favorite all-time class. “It really put me on the track for scientific research.” 

Adam is one of only six students at his school in the Advanced Science Research (ASR)  program, in which each student picks a lab and does research. Adam worked at MGH’s Department of Neurosurgery in Dr. Bob Carter’s lab. Even though Adam wasn’t able to go in person this year because of COVID-19, he worked virtually researching dysregulation of m6A methylation regulators in human cancers.

Adam submitted his research to the Regeneron National Science Talent Search in which he looked at gene patterns in the brain as they relate to certain kinds of cancers. 

“The stuff I did do was really rewarding; that’s why I want to do it in college,” he said.

At Dartmouth, Adam will have lots of opportunities to continue with research, starting as a sophomore. “I’m definitely going to try to form some relationships with people who work in labs, like professors,” he said. 

Regarding environmental studies, Adam said, “I feel like I’ve always been pretty connected to nature.” 

Adam leads his school’s new Climate Change Club (another reason for his interest in environmental studies). Over this past year, he’s arranged for speakers to talk about global warming and climate change. 

“I’m also trying to make sustainability at my school better,” he said, noting the club has been focusing on school lunches. Because of COVID, the school has gone to box lunches, which produce a lot of waste, Adam said. The club has been working to reduce the box lunch waste. “We just removed plastic water bottles from the lunches and that’s really helped,” he said. “There used to be 500 water bottles every day. We fixed that and made a couple other changes surrounding lunches.”

Adam is involved with student government. He’s been a senator for his grade throughout high school. “I’m kind of a representative for the people,” he said.

Adam works during the summer at Pleasant Bay Community Boating on the Cape. He learned to sail at Harry McDonough Sailing Center at Castle Island, starting at 8 years old. “I did that for a few years and I really started to like it,” he said. “I took that knowledge out to the Cape and I got a job there.”

Adam is also into music, playing guitar and piano. He’s in the Rock Band at school (but he doesn’t sing). He may want to pursue music further in college. 

Why Dartmouth? “They have a reputation for really good academics,” he said, noting the rural location (Hanover, N.H.) was a big consideration, too. “I visited there a bunch and it has a really tight-knit community that I could clearly see when I went, more so than any other college. That was one of the biggest draws for me. I wanted to join that.”

Adam plans to participate in intramural sports as well as the Dartmouth Outing Club, the biggest club on campus that organizes hiking in the mountains, river trips, and more.

It’s going to be tough leaving home, he said. “I’ve got a lot of friends that I’m leaving behind … my family, obviously, the dogs.” But he’s very excited to graduate from high school. “I can’t wait to get the new chapter of my life started.”