If there’s one thing the graduating class of 2020 can hold over others, it’s that their graduation will certainly be memorable.
High school graduation is always a bittersweet affair; grads look ahead to a future full of possibilities while also reflecting on the lives they are about to leave behind.
It’s a time of hope and uncertainty. In 2020, that uncertainty has been amplified tenfold.
For Abby Lee and Carter Thompson, the 2020 valedictorians of Similkameen Elementary Secondary School, graduating in such a bizarre time has brought many unexpected challenges.
“Everything is kind of up in the air,” said Thompson of his future plans.
“I wanted to travel next year but you know…,” added Lee.
Both valedictorians have been impacted greatly by the repercussions of the pandemic.
Missing grad events like prom was something both valedictorians were disapointed about.
As well, their plans for what’s next have changed. Lee’s plans may have changed the most.
The new graduate had planned to travel before attending university for the arts.
However, now, she’s not quite sure how she’s going to spend the upcoming year.
For Thompson, he had planned to attend post-secondary at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus to study business marketing. However, with everything that has happened, that might be delayed.
The 18-year-old is unsure if he’d like to spend his first semester of college learning solely online.
Whether or not Thompson starts post-secondary in the fall or later, he plans to move to Kelowna “right away” to get settled in.
An avid basketball player, the gym holds many fond memories of his time at the Keremeos school.
While Lee’s immediate plans aren’t as concrete, she does plan on attending post-secondary eventually to earn an arts degree and become a teacher.
For her, she looks back fondly on the arts room and all the time she spent there.
A dedicated artist, Lee was very active in student affairs during her high school career.
She worked school art projects, was on grad council, and took part in fundraising for the grad class.
The school will forever hold her signature; in many of the hallways, lockers are beautifully painted by Lee, in a variety of designs.
Also passionate about the environment, she wrote children’s books that teach young children how to be more environmentally conscious for a science class. She would often read the books to young children after school.
It was through this experience that Lee discovered her passion for teaching. After taking a gap year, Lee plans to attend post-secondary in Kelowna.
While the two valedictorians have different paths ahead of them, they both agree the one thing they will miss the most about high school is the incredible bonds they’ve made with friends and teachers.
“It’s such a small school, so you get really personal relationships,” said Thompson.
“It’s like a second family… it will be hard to make friends I think for me (after high school), because we grew up together here from kindergarten. It’s kind of like a family more than friends,” said Lee of her classmates.
Because Similkameen Elementary Secondary School is small – the current grad class is just over 40 students – all of the graduates will get to attend their graduation ceremony together. However, the June 25 event at the school will be live streamed for friends and family to view from home.
Both new grads had similar answers when asked what advice they’d give to future grads.
“Live in the moment more,” said Lee. “Really enjoy everything that you do every day, because you never know what’s going to happen.”
“When (people) say it (high school) goes by in the blink of an eye, they’re not kidding. It really does go by super fast, so make the most of it,” Thompson said.