HEAD OF THE CLASS — 2020

With the school year complete, Keys high schools are proud to announce the valedictorians and salutatorians of 2020. With their high school journeys complete, these top students now embark on their next adventure to conquer new challenges. To the Class of 2020, congratulations.

VALEDICTORIAN

LAUREN HACK
CORAL SHORES HIGH SCHOOL
GPA: 4.641 

How would you describe your senior year experience? Is there anything you’ve learned as a student during the pandemic? My senior year was definitely the most fun out of any year of high school. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience all the events toward the end of the year like grad bash and prom. If there is something that I took more seriously during the pandemic it’s that life is not a guarantee. We should make the most of the time we have now.

Is there a fond memory you will always have from high school? There are plenty of football games, dances, and events I will always remember from high school. However, one event that sticks out to me is this one football game where it started raining halfway through, and a group of us left to get pizza and we all just had a fun night. 

What will you be studying or doing when you attend University of South Florida? I plan on majoring in mechanical engineering and minoring in philosophy. I also plan to join clubs and do volunteer work. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? In 10 years, I hope to have graduated college and be working with an automotive or aircraft industry or something similar. I also hope to have invented something useful to the world. 

What’s your message to the Class of 2020? My message to the Class of 2020 is to have the courage to follow your heart. Pursue a path that you can truly call your own. There will be times where you lose track of what’s truly important, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t get back on your path and keep moving forward. 

CLARA WILLIAMS
MARATHON HIGH SCHOOL
GPA: 4.563

How would you describe your senior year experience? Is there anything you’ve learned as a student during the pandemic? I feel like my senior experience has definitely been unique! I missed the first week of school finishing my summer semester at Stanford and then I missed the last few months because of COVID, so it’s all gone by way too quickly. I have learned some important time management skills during virtual learning, and have had some spare time to pick up violin!

Is there a fond memory you will always have from high school? I don’t think i’ll ever forget when my team and I were on our way home from a tennis match and we stopped at Chipotle for dinner but ended up trying to rescue a stray kitten. Unfortunately despite about an hour’s worth of our rescue efforts, it escaped.

What will you be studying or doing when you attend college? I plan to major in the biological basis of behavior at the University of Pennsylvania, which is pretty much just a long way of saying neuroscience. I also plan on fulfilling pre-med requirements and attending medical school after college.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? In 10 years I hope to be in my second year of residency in pediatrics, psychiatry, or dermatology. Hopefully I’ll have also started a family.

What’s your message to the Class of 2020? I want my class to know that they can get through anything. We’ve been through Irma and COVID and we’ll come out much stronger than we would have if our high school experience had been smooth sailing. Remember how strong you are! 

JASMINE SANDER
KEY WEST HIGH SCHOOL
GPA: 4.673

How would you describe your senior year experience? Is there anything you’ve learned as a student during the pandemic? My senior year was filled with many ups and downs, but it was an incredible learning experience. In the most unexpected and unpredictable way possible, this pandemic helped me realize that change is permanent and we must expect the unexpected. 

Is there a favorite memory you’ll always keep from high school? One of the fondest memories I have is being a freshman on the swim team and ending our swim practices with our team chant. It brought us together as a team and made our group feel more like a family than a sports team. 

What will you study next year? Currently, I plan to study chemistry at the University of Florida. Afterward, I hope to attend medical school and become an anesthesiologist. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? In 10 years I hope to be starting my residency as a doctor and be headed down a path toward something I truly enjoy. 

What’s your message to the Class of 2020? I would like to say that you should always keep going, even when life gets tough and you feel as if the entire world is collapsing around you, keep going. Why would you stop amid the badness instead of continuing on, becoming happy and fulfilled in life? Always persevere and do what you love. 

SALUTATORIAN

NIOMI GARCIA
CORAL SHORES HIGH SCHOOL
GPA: 4.600

How would you describe your senior year experience? Is there anything you’ve learned as a student during the pandemic? My senior year was very unique. Knowing we were seniors, I feel like my classmates and I really bonded this year. We had a lot of fun being seniors together and making the most out of our last year in high school. With our last quarter being online, I learned how to be flexible in adjusting to a new learning scenario. My teachers were very helpful in making sure we finished out the year strong and as normal as possible. 

Is there a fond memory you will always have from high school? My favorite memory from high school was winning powderpuff this past year. We always lost in the previous years, so it was really cool to win as seniors. 

What will you be studying or doing when you attend college? I will be majoring in biomedical engineering while at North Carolina State University. I am also a member of the NC State Dance Team. I will definitely be busy, but I am very excited. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? In 10 years, I see myself researching and working with other biomedical engineers to design and create new tools for the field of medicine. 

What’s your message to the Class of 2020? To the class of 2020, I’m so proud of everything we were able to accomplish, as well as all that we overcame. Our futures are bright and our dreams are big. I am so excited to see all that we can achieve in the future. We made it!

HELENA HANLEY
MARATHON HIGH SCHOOL
GPA: 4.542

How would you describe your senior year experience? Is there anything you’ve learned as a student during the pandemic? The beginning of my senior year was very memorable. I gained more close friends, which I did not think was possible so late in high school. If laughing extends your life, I would be able to live to one hundred just from those couple of months. Not being able to end senior year with my classmates was a letdown, but I appreciated the effort by the community and school to continue to celebrate our graduation. I learned from the pandemic that it’s important to establish routine and have a support group. Those two things make all the difference.

Is there a fond memory you will always have from high school? There’s so many, but I particularly enjoyed my AP Environmental Project in my sophomore year. My group picked up trash and debris in the mangroves. We called ourselves “the mangrovians.” It was a win-win situation: I got to spend time with my friends outdoors while helping the environment. 

What will you be studying or doing when you attend college? I will be studying chemistry or biochemistry at the University of Miami. Ever since I can remember, I loved science, and I’m very excited to pursue my academic passion.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I’m not sure what the future will hold, but I definitely see myself having a Ph.D. in science or in residency after medical school. Making some more friends along the way and exploring much of the outdoors would be nice to accomplish as well.

What’s your message to the Class of 2020? Despite experiencing a category 4 hurricane and pandemic during our high school career, we still managed to graduate. And although our future may seem uncertain, I believe our experiences have made us able to take on any of life’s curveballs, as long as we continue to support and care for those around us as we showed through these crises. 

ALEXIS STURM
KEY WEST HIGH SCHOOL
GPA: 4.651

How would you describe your senior year? What has the pandemic taught you? Although my senior year was cut short, I still made so many amazing memories to last a lifetime. The pandemic has taught me the importance of being versatile to adapt to new circumstances. Switching to online school and not being able to see my friends every day was a struggle, but I think I’ve adapted well.

Is there a favorite memory you’ll always keep from high school? I’ve made so many memories throughout high school it’s hard to choose just one. Although some of my favorite memories were during lacrosse season last year. Our team was a family and we had a record-breaking year. Our victory at districts last year is a memory I will take with me forever.

What will you study next year? I will attend the University of Florida in the fall and will major in biomedical engineering.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? In 10 years I hope to have my master’s or Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. I hope to have a stable job, own a home and be starting a family.

What’s your message to the Class of 2020? Keep growing and see how far life can take you. Never let anything or anyone hold you back. Every one of you has so much potential. Take risks and don’t be afraid of failure. Our time to shine doesn’t end here.

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