Making the perfect grade during the pandemic

This year, four seniors at South Whidbey High School have earned the distinction of valedictorian.

They’ve experienced pre-pandemic schooling, online learning and somewhat of a return to a more “normal” education, all within four years.

The class of 2022 were just sophomores when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the nation, shuttering schools and sending students to the online sphere.

This year, four seniors at South Whidbey High School out of the 114 in the class of 2022 have earned the distinction of valedictorian.

The co-valedictorians, all with a perfect 4.0 GPA, will be taking the graduation stage at their high school on Saturday, June 4.

Here’s a look at South Whidbey’s Top 4 Seniors.

Max Rodriguez

Like his fellow valedictorians, Rodriguez felt caught off guard by South Whidbey High School’s closure in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“I remember immediately fretting over how I was going to be able to complete AP Biology and AP Statistics simultaneously after both classes were moved online,” he said. “In the end, everything worked out fine.”

Rodriguez considers placing first with his team at the 2022 Washington State Math Competition as being one of his greatest accomplishments of his high school career. He has been part of South Whidbey’s Math Olympiad Team since eighth grade, in addition to playing varsity tennis, varsity golf and the piano throughout high school.

Some of his fondest memories of high school come from his time spent building and programming Arduino robots and circuits throughout the duration of his Engineering 121 course.

He will attend Stanford University in the fall, where he plans to major in computer science and minor in computer music.

He advises underclassmen not to be afraid to put themselves out there and to work hard to create opportunities that will allow themselves to pursue their passions.

Kailey Ricketts

Besides the classroom, Ricketts also excelled on the soccer field. Throughout high school she played varsity soccer and was captain of the team during her senior year.

In fact, she considers making it to state for the sport this year to be her greatest accomplishment of high school.

Ricketts was also involved in the high school’s ecology club, as vice president her junior year and president her senior year.

Her pre-pandemic life at high school was marked by a lot more school events, especially those that took place indoors. The school’s closure in 2020 was a shock.

She plans to attend the University of Washington and major in biology.

“I would tell underclassmen that they should cherish their time in high school and try to meet as many people as possible,” she said.

Ellie Thomson

By the time she graduates, Thomson will have a leg up compared to some of her other peers.

Thomson will soon be receiving her associate’s degree as a result of enrolling as a full-time student in the Running Start program, which allows high school students to take courses at the state’s community and technical colleges.

Earning that degree, alongside her high school diploma, is what she considers to be her greatest achievement.

“The best advice I can give to underclassmen is to start planning and finding opportunities for yourself now, whether it’s on island or off,” she said. “The resources offered through the high school are so limited compared to what is available out there.”

At the high school, she played varsity volleyball and varsity tennis and was also involved in Key Club as the vice president during her underclassmen years.

In the fall, she is bound for the University of Washington.

Jordan Wu

Similar to his fellow valedictorians, Wu had what could only be described as a busy schedule during his high school career.

He played tennis all four years, with three of those as part of the varsity team and his senior year as the co-captain of the team.

He was involved in a plethora of other activities, including as the president of ASB, or the Associated Student Body, the president of Key Club, a member of the National Honor Society and the student representative for the South Whidbey School Board.

Since before the pandemic started, he said he will probably remember how different he was and how much character development he has had since then.

He plans to attend the University of California, Davis to study computer science.

He advises underclassmen to truly live in the moment.

“You always hear that high school will fly by and when you are in senior year, you finally get it. It truly does go by really fast,” he said. “Spend time with your friends and take advantage of being in high school.”

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