It is often said that unique times breed unique people. If so, the Highlands School Class of 2020 will offer the world a class of very unique individuals.
In these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, these 33 graduating seniors have become trailblazers in how to live in a new age of social distancing, sheltering in place and graduating from high school remotely.
They have taken it in stride, according to valedictorians Camren Dalton and Sayla Roman, and salutatorian Morgan Olvera.
Co-Valedictorian Camren Dalton
“While I am a bit sad that us 2020 seniors didn’t get the full senior experience, I don’t feel slighted or cheated because the way our school year ended isn’t any single persons fault, it was simply a reaction to unforeseen circumstances,” said co-valedictorian Camren Dalton. “This way of ending our high school careers definitely feels different than how I expected it to go but I think that we’ve made it work out alright.”
Dalton plans on attending North Carolina State and pursuing an education in Environmental Engineering.
Dalton said the idea of being a guinea pig for the future was a little nerve-wracking at first, it helped to remember they were all in this together.
“None of us are alone in facing the uncertainty of the future,” she said. “Although us 2020 seniors are going into this time of change at a critical point in our educational careers, so are all other students at Highlands School and across the globe so there is a larger community of people we can rely on while we regain our footing.”
Dalton counts herself as one of the world’s next generation of adults, where each succeeding generation meets their own unique challenges and opportunities.
“There was no clear moment when the transition from child to adult was over so realizing that it had occurred was a bit startling but very exciting nonetheless,” she said. “Having a seemingly endless array of new opportunities available to me is nothing short of liberating and I can’t wait to dive into life head first.”
Co-Valedictorian Sayla Roman
Sayla Roman, Highlands School’s co-valedictorian, plans to head northeast in the fall to attend Columbia University. That is, if COVID-19 allows it. Roman plans to major in Biology but round out her field of study in the arts, “minoring in something in the arts, such as theater.”
During her scholastic career, Roman was involved in just about everything at Highlands, including playing varsity basketball and soccer, and serving as varsity volleyball manager. Roman was also SGA Junior Class Treasurer and SGA Treasurer, Beta Club President, Interact Club President and yearbook editor.
Roman said while it was sad for her class to miss out on the final activities of their senior year such as prom, awards banquets and spring soccer, the time helped strengthen them as a class.
“We have always said, ‘If something bad was going to happen, it was going to be with the class of 2020,’” she said. “I never was really one to hang out with other people, but since this has happened, we’ve all got together and taken car rides, or just hung out and enjoyed the time we had together.”
Roman said the future will bring a whole new world and future classes coming forward will need to be prepared for the challenges they will face.
“This is a new world,” she said. “Life will never be the same again. There is a new normal and upcoming classes will need to be prepared for that.”
In looking forward to the coming years, Roman said she can’t wait to get started.
“It’s almost less exciting to be done with school because we didn’t get to finish our senior year,” she said, “But I’m really excited for what the future holds and I’m looking forward to the coming fall semester.”
Salutatorian Morgan Olvera
Salutatorian Morgan Olvera plans to head to Raleigh in the fall, attending North Carolina State to study Sports Management and Communications.
Olvera regards her final months of high school as another challenge to meet head-on, seeing her senior year as a whole as the culmination of a long road of hard work and sacrifices.
“It’s everyone’s expectation to celebrate this major accomplishment with end-of-year festivities and a graduation ceremony,” she said. “This, unfortunately, didn’t happen for the class of 2020 as circumstances beyond our control changed those plans. I would have loved to complete the final days as a senior like past classes, but I understand why the decisions were made to cancel school.”
Olvera said the level of pride in the accomplishment was not diminished.
“We will just celebrate in a non-traditional way,” she said. “But I am still looking forward to an end of summer ceremony.”
Olvera regards herself and classmates and all classes of 2020 as a “special graduating class.”
“As great as it is to have a “special” distinction, I truly hope that future graduating classes do not have to go through this,” she said. “I hope they are able to enjoy their final days of high school with levels of normalcy that we didn’t have. We may be the first, but I hope we are the last.”
Olvera is looking forward to this next chapter in her life, ready to close the book on this chapter of her life and moving forwards.
“I feel a great sense of accomplishment graduating high school because of all the hard work the journey entails,” she said. “I am excited for the new experiences, meeting new people, and the new challenges. It will be a great adjustment because there is a new level of independence and responsibility and I must admit a certain level of anxiety. I believe that the education I have received at Highlands School has given me the tools and preparation to succeed in this new chapter.”