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Pomp amid the circumstance

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Esperanza Biggs has been striving to be school valedictorian since middle school – maybe even earlier.

She knew from a young age that she wanted to become a nurse, setting her sights on being at the top of her class in high school.

Esperanza Biggs, 18, a senior at Valley High School, will give her valedictorian speech virtually.(Courtesy Esperanza Biggs)

Biggs made studying a top priority for years, taking every Advanced Placement and honors class she could to boost her grade point average.

The 18-year-old senior found out in May that she had done it. With a 4.7 GPA, she learned she would be Valley High School’s Class of 2020 valedictorian.

But it ended up being a bittersweet moment.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in school shutdowns and canceled in-person graduations. Biggs’ big valedictorian speech – the one she had pictured giving in front of her classmates, friends and family – would have to be online.

Albuquerque Public Schools is hosting virtual graduation ceremonies Sunday for the 13 comprehensive high schools and College and Career High School to allow graduates their milestone moment from afar.

“It was very hard when we got the word that graduation ceremonies would be made virtual – this moment that you worked so hard for, for so long,” Biggs said.

“It was very hard to accept at first,” she added.

While it wouldn’t be how she envisioned, Biggs came to terms with the new reality, which is a theme in her speech that will air on Sunday.

Her roughly four-minute, prerecorded address encourages the student body not to let the coronavirus and its repercussions affect their future.

Esperanza Biggs gives Valley High School’s 2020 valedictorian speech on YouTube.

“My speech is just about no matter which way the world turns on you, your passions and your ideas of what you want your life to look like don’t have to change. And although the times we are in now, the odds might be against you, but that’s your opportunity to defy the odds and to always go after what you want,” she said.

All of the virtual commencements are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 28. Links to schools’ ceremonies will be posted at APS.edu/graduation.

During the online ceremonies, graduates’ names will be read and videos and slideshows will be featured.

Amelia Dunn, who was Albuquerque High’s student body president, said she appreciates the efforts that have been made to make graduation special, even though it’s bound to feel different.

“Individual schools, students, staff and families deserve praise for pivoting to adapt to an unprecedented graduation season,” APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy wrote in a statement. “This isn’t the high school graduation anyone had planned, but it’s the hand we’ve been dealt. I’m proud of our high school staff who made sure students were recognized at the campus level, and for everyone who made it a priority to reach out to our graduates and congratulate them for their achievements and resiliency.”

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