FAIRFIELD — For Fairfield Warde High School’s valedictorian, the most valuable lessons the school has taught her are acceptance and kindness toward others.

While Lili Minerva expects some chuckles when she references the often-cited WARDE acronym during her valedictorian’s speech, she feels its message — Welcoming, Academic, Respectful, Dynamic and Ethical — of is among the most important things graduates June 15 can take into the world.

“Even more so than we actually realize, it’s really been true throughout our entire Warde career,” she said. “More important than any of the academic classes that we take is knowing that we are a diverse school, and we are so accepting of everybody no matter where they come from.”

The 17-year-old was shocked when she learned she would be Warde’s 2017 valedictorian.

“There are so many smart kids in my grade, and I’m friends with so many smart people that it could’ve been any of them,” Minerva said as graduation drew near. “Warde is such an academically strong school and there’s so many very intelligent kids in our school, so it’s amazing.”

While her favorite classes have included math and science, Minerva has long gravitated toward a more unique pursuit: fashion. She is one of a handful of seniors that take fashion courses at Warde and aims to make a career in the field. Minerva began sewing at age 10 and took classes outside of school until high school when courses were offered at Warde.

“I just really liked how freeing it was and just calm,” she said. “So much of school is hectic and stressful, and fashion was the one place where I could relax and take my time with things and design something that really was something I could see myself wearing.”

She has been able to bring some of her designs to completion, some thanks to Fairfield-based designer Jennifer Butler. Minerva interned for Butler and was able to create a coat and a dress at her workshop.

Minerva will continue pursuing fashion next year at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. She intends to study fashion design and product development but also plans to take advantage of the vast clubs, sports and study abroad opportunities beyond the classroom. Down the road, Minerva aspires to work for a fashion company in New York City.

At Warde, the Brookview Avenue resident was part of the Wakeman Mentoring Program at McKinley School and a member of Key Club, National Honor Society and Math Honor Society. She served as the Italian National Honor Society president and currently works at the Natural Pet Outlet in Bridgeport. Soccer — which Minerva has played since childhood — was also a significant part of her high school experience as a four-year Warde team member.

“That was always really nice to be part of a team and take my mind away from academics for a few hours of the day,” she said. “I love being with all my teammates and having fun with them.”

While at times stressful, Minerva reflected positively on her Warde experiences. In the classroom, she found teachers created environments where students could comfortably speak their minds and often have hearty debates.

“The moments I just really remember are some of the teachers that I’ve had — almost basically all of them — have been so amazing and engaging and just so devoted to creating a classroom environment where you can express however you’re feeling and whatever you think about something, even if it might not be the same thing as somebody else,” she said.

lweiss@hearstmediact.com; @LauraEWeiss16