Like the rest of the class of 2018, Whitefish High School senior Ian Caltabiano will get his diploma during graduation on Saturday.
However, it’ll come after his college graduation.
Caltabiano started classes at Flathead Valley Community College at age 9, and graduated on May 18 with an associates degree of applied art — though he won’t get his certificate until he properly finished high school. From age 11 to 14 he studied at FVCC fulltime before jumping over to Whitefish.
In the fall he’ll head down to Montana State University in Bozeman to finish his bachelor’s degree in two years, and what he’s most excited for is something different.
“Change — it’s a new experience for me. High school feels kind of exhausted to me, I feel like I’ve made good use of the opportunities I have and the thing I like about college is because it’s that transition point into adulthood, it gives me an opportunity to have limitless experiences,” Caltabiano told the Pilot.
Caltabiano has been involved in a number of groups in his time at Whitefish High School, most notably speech and debate, the ProStart culinary and management teams and as a student trustee on the Whitefish School Board.
In his speech and debate career, Caltabiano says his record came out around 122 wins and 38 losses. In his senior year, the team took second overall in state and Caltabiano and partner Zach Ade took second in policy debate.
Caltabiano said while it took some nudging to get him to join the team, he learned to find his voice and speak for himself through speech and debate.
“Speaking in front of people is something I’m comfortable with. To me, that’s something I greatly enjoy, because it gives me an opportunity to express who I am and my ideals to a broader audience,” he said.
Plus, it gave him a chance to win arguments with skill.
“I like proving people wrong, and more importantly, I like being right. And I think debate really appealed to that,” he said.
On the food end, Caltabiano participated in Montana ProStart competitions and dedicated himself to learning creativity in the kitchen. In March his restaurant management team took first at the State ProStart Invitational in Missoula and earned a trip to nationals.
He says his love for travel helped fuel his passion for food and cooking.
“I grew up traveling. Traveling was always a huge part of who I am, so having been to a couple dozen countries, been born overseas, having a non-American heritage ... and through that I had opportunities to try amazing food. I love cooking, I love eating, I love experiencing new things,” he said.
At Montana State, Caltabiano plans to pursue a degree in computer science with a minor in accounting and business, with a focus on possibly going into actuarial work and insurance adjusting. He learned to code when he was 14, and soon after started making side projects and getting paid for his work.
While cooking and computers seem like very different things, to Caltabiano they’re two sides of the same coin.
Both passions offer him creative freedom, and that’s all he can ask for.
“It’s sort of the creative spirit for me. The idea that I can create something, that I can create the rules and the structure and the framework for something, is very appealing to me. That’s why cooking and writing appeal to me [too], because I can create these little worlds and I can say what happens in these worlds,” he said. “These are expressions of my self.”