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A fateful year for EDSS class of 2020

EDSS valedictorian Katie Carreon says goodbye to high school as she looks towards a future in law. [Sean Heeger]

Naming a valedictorian is a normal part of each school year, but this one has been anything but normal at EDSS. Still, there will be a representative of the class of 2020 penning a speech to send her classmates out into the world.

Katie Carreon welcomed the honour, adding that it came as bit of a surprise to her.

“I feel like there were a lot of really good people that could have been chosen to be valedictorian. And so I am honored to be able to represent my class and (to) have been accompanied by such other great nominees,” said Carreon “I have (had) the thought (it) had always kind of been in the back of my mind, ‘who was going to be valedictorian?’ … but I never really pictured myself.”

Selecting a valedictorian was a bit of normalcy after a year in which Elmira District Secondary School students protested provincial plans for online learning, endured rotating strikes by teachers’ unions, and eventually saw the building shuttered in mid-March due to the novel coronavirus.

Carreon has been actively involved within the school community for the last few years, serving as co-president of EDSS and representing the students at events and within the community. Early in her high school career, she said she never saw herself as the kind of person who would take on such a role. Then, in Grade 11, she was encouraged to run and her passion for working on behalf of the students in the school grew.

Carreon plans to attend the University of British Columbia, starting her program in 2021. She will be taking an international relations program with aspirations of one day becoming an international lawyer. Since Grade 8 she has had her mind set on pursuing this career path, but after seeing what Syrian refugees were going through a few years back – and getting some inspiration from family – Carreon set her future out in front of her. She knows that she will miss EDSS, particularly Grade 12 classes such as English, history, leadership and earth and space, but she is ready for what’s ahead of her and plans on following this new path wherever it may take her.

She says she’s very excited to move out West for school, and even though she may be a little scared of what the future will bring not being at home, the prospects that come from the adventure are too much to pass up.

“It’s in British Columbia, and that’s just a whole new experience and opportunity to sort of reach out in the world,” said Carreon. “I guess I decided to choose it, in the end, because I thought, ‘well, I always say I want to explore the world more and … Canada, and what else the world has to offer.’ Four years in another province would be really exciting.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, her plans to start school have been put off for a year because moving during this time would be a hassle – everything is in some kind of disarray, with more hurdles than there would be normally for a teenager going off to pursue post-secondary education.

While she doesn’t currently have plans as to how she’ll use her time off, she said she appreciates the chance she’ll have to say goodbye to family and friends.

“I feel like I’ll be more at peace with closing [off the chapter of] high school, and I’ll be able to say goodbye to some of my friends with more time. I feel like now more than ever, I am much more grateful for the time that I do have to talk to my friends. I cherish the friendships that I had at school so much more.

“And now that the restrictions are lifted a bit, I am allowed to see my friends – from a distance, of course,” she added.

Given the lockdown, Carreon’s valedictory address will have to wait until the fall, giving her more time on that front, as well.

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