Clear Creek commencement

Clear Creek High School valedictorian Elida Met-Hoxha heads back to her seat after giving her address during commencement at Challenger Columbia Stadium in League City on Saturday, May 30, 2020.

Time waits for no one — even in the midst of a global pandemic. It’s a lesson, unfortunately, that high school seniors had to learn the hard way.

From the cancellation of in-person classes, prom and other senior events, the class of 2020 is at the end of the road, finally, as far as K-12 years are concerned. Most are preparing for “what’s next” and college.

It’s graduation season in Galveston County and so a few leaders of the class of 2020 have shared with The Daily News what they have prepared to share with their fellow classmates at commencement.

Here's some of what they had to say:

ELIDA MET-HOXHA 

Elida Met-Hoxha, 18, is the valedictorian of Clear Creek High School. She will be attending Cornell University in the fall, majoring in mathematics. She’s also been accepted into Cornell’s Milstein Program in Technology and Humanity.

Q: What is the main thing you believe the class of 2020 needs to know as its members graduate into a world undergoing a pandemic?

A: Research has shown that environmental changes (climate change, deforestation, etc.), coupled with human behavior are largely responsible for this rise in zoonotic diseases and emerging viruses. As the class of 2020 graduates into this world undergoing a pandemic, I think it’s important for us to remember to hold ourselves and others accountable.

The world cannot be changed, solutions cannot be solved if we rely on other people to do the heavy lifting. We have to assume responsibility for this planet because it’s our home. This type of responsibility, however, isn’t a burden; it’s a privilege. This outbreak has shown cracks in current systems in place, and it’s our job to initiate and carry out necessary change.

Q: What is your vision for your class of 2020 classmates — how do you see them changing the world?

A: I believe we’re resilient, increasingly adaptive and passionate. We’re growing up in a highly digitized age where we have more access to knowledge at our fingertips than ever before, but we’re also increasingly connected to the world around us.

We wake up to news of shootings and murders and injustice and unsustainability. We see that change is not only needed; it’s absolutely crucial. I see our class taking this anger and fear and dissatisfaction and using it as a fuel for change. My classmates are future innovators and peacemakers. I see them as creative problem-solvers who do not even know where the box is: they’re already thinking out of it.

Q: What do you think the greatest challenges will be for the class of 2020 as they enter into adulthood?

A: Our class is entering adulthood amidst chaos and unstable markets. One in four American workers have already filed for unemployment. I think the class is bound to face many challenges, and change is always arduous and met with opposition. We just have to be dedicated and persevere.

GERALD STEPHENSON

Gerald Stephenson, 18, is the valedictorian of Hitchcock High School. He will be attending Texas A&M University in College Station in the fall majoring in chemical engineering.

Q: What is the main thing you believe the class of 2020 needs to know as they graduate into a world undergoing a pandemic?

A: I think the most important thing for my classmates to know is that things will return to normal soon, but right now it is very important to think of the health and safety of ourselves and others until this pandemic passes.

Q: What is your vision for your class of 2020 classmates — how do you see them changing the world?

A: I believe that the class of 2020 is easily one of the most resilient groups of people I have ever had the privilege of being associated with. We were born amidst the tragedy of 9/11, displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, devastated by Hurricane Harvey, and now graduating amidst a global pandemic that has caused worldwide shutdowns the likes of which no one has ever seen before. Should we continue to show this level of resilience in the face of adversity, the class of 2020 will help make this world a better place.

Q: What do you think the greatest challenges will be for the class of 2020 as they enter into adulthood?

A: Personally, I think the greatest challenge that our class will face as we transition to our adult lives is meeting new friends and forming relationships in the wake of this pandemic. Many college campuses are enforcing social distancing if not staying closed entirely during the upcoming fall semester. With this being the most critical time to meet new people in a place far away from the friends we knew in high school, it may be difficult for us to form the relationships we need when we’re so far from home.

ELIZABETH CARTER

Elizabeth Carter, 18, is the valedictorian of Texas City High School. She will be attending Yale University in the fall to study archeology.

Q: What is the main thing you believe the class of 2020 needs to know as its members graduate into a world undergoing a pandemic?

A: I think that our class needs to remember to love one another and embrace the good. This pandemic isn’t ideal, but it’s what we're going through. So, now we have to find joy where we are and help others wherever we can.

Q: What is your vision for your class of 2020 classmates — how do you see them changing the world?

A: If any class could've made it through what this year has put us through, it would be the class of 2020. Moving forward from here I'm excited to see my class do what's best for others and change the world in every area. With students choosing different career and school routes for the future I have no doubt that the class of 2020 will work to make the world better in whatever ways they can.

Q: What do you think the greatest challenges will be for the class of 2020 as its members enter into adulthood?

A: It’ll definitely be hard for us to all enter adulthood at such a dark point in the world. With overall health and economies at an all-time low, it will be a challenge. But I have nothing but confidence that my classmates will overcome whatever obstacles are put in front of them and change the world in remarkable ways.

GRAYSON MERRITT 

Grayson Merritt, 18, is the salutatorian of Friendswood High School. He will be attending the University of Texas at Austin in the fall where he’ll be majoring in computer science with a second major in math or neuroscience.

Q: What is the main thing you believe the class of 2020 needs to know as its members graduate into a world undergoing a pandemic?

A: I believe that the class of 2020 understands that we're all connected, but we also need to remember that we're not all the same. Each of us has to make our own choices about how we react to our changing world. We will not all make the same choices, but that's OK. What's the right choice for one person may not be the right choice for another. We should all respect differences in others.

Q: What is your vision for your class of 2020 classmates — how do you see them changing the world?

A: My classmates have been through many challenges such as Hurricane Harvey and now this global pandemic. The class of 2020 will change the world through their resilience and determination I have seen them show that in the past four years. My peers will not back down from a challenge.

Q: What do you think the greatest challenges will be for the class of 2020 as its members enter into adulthood?

A: I think the greatest challenge for the class of 2020 will be adjusting to the unknown. As we enter life after high school, there are so many changes happening in all areas, and we're not even able to look to the ways things were done in the past for guidance. As we enter college, the military or the workforce, things are quite different than they were at this time last year.

KATRIEL IVY

Katriel Ivy, 18, is the valedictorian and class president of the class of 2020 at La Marque High School. She will be attending the University of Texas at Austin in the fall, majoring in athletic training on a pre-occupational therapy track.

Q: What is the main thing you believe the class of 2020 needs to know as its members graduate into a world undergoing a pandemic?

A: I feel like the class of 2020 needs to know that we are living history right now. This is the time to make your mark, perfect your craft, learn yourself and most importantly become the best version of you during these trying times.

Q: What is your vision for your class of 2020 classmates — how do you see them changing the world?

A: I see my classmates making a difference and changing the stigma that is there regarding the people of my community. I see them taking charge and changing the perception that others have about graduates from La Marque High School.

Q: What do you think the greatest challenges will be for the class of 2020 as they enter into adulthood?

A: Entering adulthood as a 2020 graduate the greatest challenge will be the freedom we have all been waiting for. It will be a bit challenging being in the real world and learning out things on our own, learning from our mistakes and being open to new experiences and opportunities.

CHRISTOF GAULT 

Christof Gault, 18, is the valedictorian of Ball High School. He will be attending the University of Texas at Austin in the Biomedical Engineering Honors program in the fall.

Q: What is the main thing you believe the class of 2020 needs to know as they graduate into a world undergoing a pandemic?

A: The main thing I want the class of 2020 to know as we graduate is how big a milestone our graduation is. This ceremony celebrates the achievements each one of us has made throughout our time in high school. The current situation we are in doesn't diminish our success or what we have worked so hard for. Although the events this year caused our graduation to be different, it will still be just as important and celebration worthy. I'm glad that we can now all graduate together.

Q: What is your vision for your class of 2020 classmates — how do you see them changing the world?

A: My vision for the class of 2020 is that even though all of us will go in different directions, everyone will find their path. Each person will find a way that's unique for them, and through this, they will leave their mark. I truly hope that each one of us will contribute to our community in a way that's special and particular to each one of us.

Q: What do you think the greatest challenges will be for the class of 2020 as they enter into adulthood?

A: As we enter adulthood, I believe the greatest challenge will be adjusting to the different life that will come with independence. This is a dramatic change in our lives filled with new people, new jobs, and even a new environment. Everything will be different and new, and this can be challenging for us to find our own way and become who we are in the uncertainty that lies ahead of us. However, I believe every one of us will be able to tackle this challenge and be successful in our individual ways.

ANDREA URIBE

Andrea Uribe, 18, is the valedictorian of Dickinson High School. In the fall, she’ll be attending Texas A&M University in College Station, majoring in biomedical engineering.

Q: What is the main thing you believe the class of 2020 needs to know as they graduate into a world undergoing a pandemic?

A: Even though this year didn’t end at all how we thought it would, we have to be grateful that we’re still here and that our families are safe. We have to be safe and take care of ourselves and others and never give up. We’re going to get through this together and we have to look forward to the future. Our lives will continue and before we know it, we’ll be enjoying ourselves in college and living our lives.

Q: What is your vision for your class of 2020 classmates — how do you see them changing the world?

A: I know every single one of my classmates will make a huge impact on this world. We’ve endured so much together from a hurricane our sophomore year to a pandemic our senior year and we’ve never given up. There’s nothing we can’t do, and whatever we put our minds to we will accomplish. I wish all of my classmates well and I can’t wait to see what every single one of us accomplishes in our future.

Q: What do you think the greatest challenges will be for the class of 2020 as they enter into adulthood?

A: I believe one of the hardest things we will endure is that we’re being thrown out to adulthood. We had no actual closure and our lives were shaken up right when we were wrapping up the youthful part of our lives and getting ready to go into adulthood. Although it’ll be a little tough in the beginning to get the hang of it, I believe we will get through it and succeed in all that we put our minds to.

ALFREDO RIVAS

Alfredo Rivas, 18, is the valedictorian at Odyssey Academy in Galveston. He will be attending Texas A&M University at College Station in the fall where he'll be majoring in aerospace engineering.

Q: What is the main thing you believe the class of 2020 needs to know as they graduate into a world undergoing a pandemic?

A: I believe the class of 2020 should know that life is only going to get harder from here on out, but they are well prepared.

Q: What is your vision for your class of 2020 classmates — how do you see them changing the world?

A: I see the class of 2020 changing the world by taking action and by standing up for what they believe in.

Q: What do you think the greatest challenges will be for the class of 2020 as they enter into adulthood.

A: I think one of the greatest challenges will be keeping an open mind when facing tasks and problems in the future.

ANUSHKA JETLY

Anushka Jetly, 17, is the valedictorian of Friendswood High School. She will be attending Harvard University in the fall, majoring in molecular and cellular biology on the pre-med track.

Q: What is the main thing you believe the class of 2020 needs to know as they graduate into a world undergoing a pandemic?

A: I believe that the class of 2020 should always remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. All we have to do is push forward and persevere. We may be graduating during a pandemic, but this pandemic shouldn't define our future.

Q: What is your vision for your class of 2020 classmates — how do you see them changing the world?

A: I see the class of 2020 as the future entrepreneurs, scientists, lawmakers and visionaries of the world. They will be the ones that guide our world to a better future.

Q: What do you think the greatest challenges will be for the class of 2020 as they enter into adulthood?

A: As we take charge of our own life and enter into adulthood, we will face challenges unlike any other graduating class before us. The consequences of this pandemic will be long-lasting and far-reaching. For example, depending on the financial burden of this pandemic, many of us may have to change our college or career plans. There's no doubt that we will be entering into a world very different than what we had imagined growing up.

Angela Wilson: 409-683-5239; angela.wilson@galvnews.com 

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(1) comment

Jose' Boix

Angela, thanks for sharing such a wonderful collection of well crafted Q&A with our local Valedictorians. Such column was a welcome diversion from the current bevy of "current events." It was refreshing to read their well thought out responses, their academic goals and selections of universities. Looks like they will have a great future; let's hope some of them come back locally to share their newly acquired skills.

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