With a new learning environment, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the Valedictorian and Salutatorian races at YES Prep were closer than ever before. On Tuesday, May 26, 2020, when final grades were posted, campuses were finally able to determine their Valedictorian and Salutatorian.
Val+Sal Banquet on hiatus
In prior years, YES Prep would have hosted its annual “Val+Sal Banquet” to honor and recognize the students for this recognition. However, due to COVID-19, our campuses had to get creative. Each campus had a member of their team -principal, coach, 12th-grade level chair, and college counselor- reach out to the student’s family to see if they could set up a surprise delivery of their Valedictorian/Salutatorian regalia including their stole and/or medal.
A campus staff member delivered the medal to the student’s home, work or a place set up with the family. The awards were delivered while maintaining social distancing, by dropping off the award and then announcing the honor to the student and family from a distance when they came outside. The surprise plan for recognition was unique to each campus, authentic to the staff member delivering the award and the relationship they have with the Val and/or Sal. Some of the staff members gave a speech, collected notes from different teachers to include in the bag, organized a drive-by car parade, etc.
The awards were delivered between May 27 and 29 in time for the students to have their regalia for their online graduation ceremony stream. Vals and Sals will receive their academic honors trophies and a backpack from the YES Prep Senior Experience Working Group at the second graduation ceremony which is to take place in-person in August.
For the full list of this year's Valedictorians and Salutatorians, click here.
Valedictorian spotlight: Paul Anthony Cruz, Fifth Ward
YES Prep Fifth Ward’s Valedictorian Paul Anthony Cruz took one of the most rigorous course loads the campus has to offer, while also being involved in the social justice club, service club, National Honor Society, Titans Take on Peru, just to name a few. All of his academic courses and extra-curricular activities are impressive, but Fifth Ward staff note that what they’ll miss most is his funny, loud and energetic personality.
It is very fitting that Cruz would be Fifth Ward’s Valedictorian, especially in the current state of the country. 2020 has brought a whole new level of love and appreciation for healthcare professionals, especially nurses. Cruz had the love and admiration for nursing way before COVID-19.
Passion for nursing
Cruz grew up watching his mom studying to become a nurse and knew nursing was his way to impact the world. He never swayed, even when people tried to convince him to become a doctor. He was determined to be a nurse and stayed true to his passion for nursing, refusing to entertain any college that did not have a nursing program.
Working with College Counselor Cierra Sterling, she and Cruz spent hours finding the best nursing programs in the country and creating one of the ambitious college lists she had ever created. While she was nervous, Cruz would remind her of her words that he was going to end up exactly where he was supposed to. And he was right. Cruz found his dream school and found his dream program.
There is no doubt in our mind that Cruz is going to make an amazing nurse! We know he is ready for Emory; we just hope Emory is ready for him!
Class of 2020’s Vals + Sals
Co-Valedictorians: Samanta Gonzalez – University of Houston & Jholibet Alvarado – University of Virginia
Salutatorian: Collin Ageyman – Vanderbilt University
Valedictorian: Jennifer Morales – University of Houston
Salutatorian: Andrea Perez – University of Houston
Valedictorian: Jacalya Nelson - Xavier University
Salutatorian: Vanessa Pena - University of Houston
Valedictorian: Paul Cruz – Emory University
Salutatorian: Itzel Miranda – University of Houston
Valedictorian: Nathaly Garcia – Colby College
Salutatorian: Paola Gomez Flores – Bates College
Valedictorian: Mia Mapula – Rice University
Salutatorian: Daisy Crisostomo – The University of Texas at Austin
Co-Valedictorians: Diego Hernandez - Wesleyan University in Connecticut & Kallie Cardenas - Trinity University
Salutatorian: Aaleyah Necole Taylor – Trinity University
Valedictorian: Jonathan Alejandro Romero – University of Texas at Austin
Salutatorian: Jennifer Octaviano Jimenez – University of Texas at Austin
Co-Valedictorians: Stephanie Requena - The University of Notre Dame & Bryan Lankford - Rice University
Salutatorian: Yasmeen Luna - University of Texas in Austin
Valedictorian: Fabian Luna – Stanford University
Salutatorian: Liliana Araujo – Swarthmore College
Valedictorian: Leslie Flores – Emory University
Salutatorian: Miguel Tlapanco – University of Houston
Valedictorian: Justin Zheng – University of Texas at Austin
Salutatorian: Ehong Sun - Johns Hopkins University
Valedictorian: Luis Molina Velasquez - University of Houston
Salutatorian: Aiyana McGrough - University of Houston