Proud memories, big dreams: Meet some valedictorians from the Class of 2020

As part of CBC Edmonton's tribute to the Class of 2020, we talked to valedictorians about accomplishments that made them proud, their plans for the future and words of advice for their fellow graduates.

'We have the world of opportunity ahead of us, waiting to be explored'

Grade 12 graduates and class valedictorians who shared their thoughts with CBC Edmonton. (Photo illustration by Wil Wang/CBC News)

In most years, June is the month when robed-and-capped high school graduates take to auditoriums to celebrate the end of one chapter in their lives and the beginning of the next.

At the heart of the event is the valedictorian's speech, words of reflection and inspiration offered by a select member of the graduating class.

As part of CBC Edmonton's tribute to the Class of 2020, we talked to valedictorians to find out the accomplishments that made them proud, their plans for the future and some words of advice for their fellow graduates.

Taylor Janzen, valedictorian at Alberta School for the Deaf. (Submitted by Taylor Janzen)

Taylor Janzen, Alberta School for the Deaf 

High school highlight: "The greatest achievement for me in high school was becoming the first deaf woman in wrestling, to know who I really am." 

Advice for fellow grads: "Don't do everything all by yourself. Ask for help when you need it." 

What's next? Taylor plans to go into the nursing program at NorQuest College.

Heet Kothari, valedictorian at Harry Ainlay School. (Submitted by Heet Kothari)

Heet Kothari, Harry Ainlay School

High school highlight: Heet is proud to be named class valedictorian and says his speech will offer words of hope and reassurance. "Throughout my high school experience, I worked diligently and strived for the best. Nevertheless, this could not have been possible without the consistent support and encouragement from my family, friends, and Harry Ainlay teachers." 

Advice for fellow grads: "Although we may feel afraid and uncertain of the path ahead, remember that hope and happiness lie beyond," he says. "I also would like to tell graduating students that since we are entering adulthood, it is important that we give back to the society that raised us and supported us in reaching this significant milestone of our lives."

What's next? Heet will study engineering at the University of Alberta.

Sameeha Anwar is valedictorian for J. Percy Page School. (Submitted by Sameeha Anwar)

Sameeha Anwar, J. Percy Page School 

High school highlight: A self-described introvert, Sameeha is proud to have overcome her anxiety and become more involved in her community, such as through mentoring kids and volunteering. 

Advice for fellow grads: "Reflect on the small decisions that you have made at each step throughout your high school journey and to consider what qualities these choices have exemplified in you," she says. "While at first you may feel doubt and inadequacy ... I know you will find that you are more prepared and that navigating the rocky pathway of the future isn't quite so scary after all." 

What's next? Sameeha plans to get her science degree at the University of Alberta and is considering a career in pharmacy.

Yosamin Esanullah is valedictorian for Jasper Place High School.  (Submitted by Yosamin Esanullah)

Yosamin Esanullah, Jasper Place High School 

High school highlight: Yosamin is proud to have been part of The Norway-Canada Research Partnership, studying assessment methods in Norway's schools. Her research helped the Edmonton public school district adopt alternative learning and assessment alternatives. 

Advice for fellow grads: "Never limit yourself because of others' limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination," says Yosamin, quoting U.S. astronaut Mae Jemison.

What's next? A recipient of the prestigious Schulich Leader Scholarship, Yosamin plans to study engineering at the University of British Columbia before pursuing graduate studies in aerospace. 

Hanna Sigurdson is valedictorian at Old Scona Academic. (Submitted by Hanna Sigurdson)

Hanna Sigurdson, Old Scona Academic 

High school highlight: A student athlete and a Schulich Leader Scholarship nominee, Hanna is proud to see Old Scona's growth and success in its athletics program. "I will never forget the school spirit as over half of the school supported our athletes at the three championship games I was lucky enough to play in." 

Advice for fellow grads: "Don't let this challenging time diminish what you have accomplished, or inhibit you from exploring your dreams. We have the world of opportunity ahead of us, waiting to be explored. Now is our time to take advantage of it." 

What's next? Hanna plans to study engineering at the University of Toronto, with hopes to focus on biomedical systems, research and innovation, while still remaining involved in her community.

Carmen Paterson is valedictorian at Ross Sheppard High School. (Submitted by Carmen Paterson)

Carmen Paterson, Ross Sheppard High School 

High school highlight: Carmen is proud of her success in athletics and academics. She played on school and club volleyball teams, while her top school marks saw her regularly achieving honours with distinction. "It is very important to have a balance during every stage of life, " she says.

Advice for fellow grads: "The Class of 2020 has had to deal with enormous adversity and uncertainty. I encourage each graduating student to be ambitious and hopeful, despite the circumstances. Dream big, and then keep dreaming some more. No matter what you want in life, remember that with determination, perseverance and — most importantly, passion — anything is possible." 

What's next? Carmen will be studying kinesiology at the University of Alberta, then hopes to pursue a career in science or medicine.

Georgia Hidson is valedictorian at Vimy Ridge Academy. (Submitted by Georgia Hidson)

Georgia Hidson, Vimy Ridge Academy 

High school highlight: Georgia is proud to have maintained great marks while pursuing her passion as part of a dance program, holding a part-time job and tutoring. "Finding a balance between all of these extracurricular activities, jobs and school has been tricky, but it has ultimately made me more well-rounded as a person." 

Advice for fellow grads: "We are graduating into a changing world that is very different from what we knew even a couple of months ago. So being adaptable is just as important as being prepared when we come to face challenges." 

What's next? While Georgia says she will maintain a love for dance, her post-secondary plan includes attending the faculty of engineering at the University of Alberta.

Cole White is valedictorian for W.P. Wagner School. (Submitted by Cole White)

Cole White, W.P. Wagner School

High school highlight: Cole is thrilled about the 100 per cent final mark he achieved in Math 30-1 AP, Physics 30 and (so far) in Math 31 AP. "More impressive since it's full year and I've maintained it since the start of the school year."

Advice for fellow grads: "Don't be lazy; procrastination is not your friend." 

What's next: Cole will pursue a science degree at the University of Alberta and is thinking about following up at medical school.