The story of 2020 graduates will be remembered for ages to come because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this year’s graduates have not had the traditional experiences, their celebrations are some of the most unique in graduation history.
Ritvik Ramakrishnan, one of the special graduates, is the first Valedictorian of Memorial High School in Frisco, Texas. Ramakrishnan, of South Indian heritage, is a young pioneer making strides with trailblazing projects on the intersections of business and technology. At a young age, he is much accomplished as seen by his cutting-edge data science research, establishment of Academican, an innovative educational service dedicated to empowering the next generation of thinkers, a 20,000 scholarship from the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, and much more. Currently, he drives change through his position as Director of Outreach and member on the Executive Board of the Coronavirus Visualization Team, a crowdsourced student network of data scientists and analysts, developers, and communicators working to better visualize and share the impacts, present and future, of COVID-19.
Ramakrishnan’s valedictorian speech was only one of the strange things he’s had to go through along with the rest of the world during this pandemic.
“I can say that I have learned more relevance in these last few weeks than I have the past four years of high school,” Ramakrishnan said in his speech. “This pandemic has truly taught me the value of me and the value of growing mentally, as well as respecting others wherever they are.”
Ramakrishnan addressed this period of time as the “AP Pandemic,” and spoke about the difficulties his class has had to face with the crisis.
“All of us were ready to leave high school after taking our last final in an e-learning class we’d never imagine ourselves in: AP Pandemic,” Ramakrishnan said.
Despite all of the troubles the class of 2020 have had to face, Ritvik Ramakrishnan believed in pushing through and making new memories. He spoke about not giving up, even with everything going on. During this pandemic, Ramakrishnan brought light and hope to students at the ceremony.
“Even though we may have faced challenges as the class of 2020, even though we’ve gone through all of these different obstacles, at the end of the day, it’s not only important to focus on the positive aspects of each obstacle, but also to make the most of every instance and opportunity,” he said.
Ritvik Ramakrishnan is not the only one who has overcome obstacles on his path to being valedictorian. All graduating students have spoken about their unique experiences this year, and most have used it as a learning opportunity.
And we all must do the same. We need to take this experience and grow as human beings from this. We must find positivity in these dark times and become better, stronger, smarter. If there is anything we have learned from this pandemic, it should be to see the hope even when all seems lost.