Rustburg High school has announced Jamael Smith as this year’s class of 2020 valedictorian. With COVID-19 quarantine restrictions in place, the end of Jamael’s senior year is ending differently than he envisioned. As a senior, he says, “I was looking forward to hanging out with my friends at prom, graduation, senior picnic, and walking down the halls of Yellow Branch in my cap and gown and seeing my old elementary school teachers.”
Smith has lived in the Rustburg-Evington area his whole life and started his academic career at Yellow Branch Elementary. His current GPA is a 4.44, and on top of his academic achievements, he participated in a variety of school clubs. Smith’s extra-curricular activities have included participation in the Spanish Club, co-captain of the Scholastic Bowl team, National Honor Society, SCA, Outdoor Track and Field, tutoring, and volunteering for the Rustburg Public Library. Also of particular note is that Smith founded the Rustburg STEM club during his junior year. Out of these activities, Smith said his favorite was the Scholastic Bowl because “I enjoyed being able to compete against other schools academically, not athletically, using my knowledge of various topics.”
He says his favorite memory of school is “competing with my friends as a part of the Dodgefathers team of mostly seniors in our school’s annual dodgeball tournament. We had a two-time championship victory in our sophomore and junior years, but ‘questionably’ came in second place this year.”
Smith stated that all of his teachers have been awesome, but his top two favorites were Mr. Smith in AP U.S. History and Mr. Nagy from AP Comparative Government. They stood out to him because “they were both fun, engaging teachers who made studying topics that I already enjoy even more enjoyable.”
When asked if he felt prepared for the future, he stated, “Taking Advanced Placement classes at Rustburg has challenged me and gave me a preview of rigorous college coursework. At the Central Virginia Governor’s School during my junior and senior years, I was able to receive an education that gave me a strong foundation in math, computer research, and other STEM topics.” He was also able to take part in an internship with Framatome, Inc., which he feels “gave me a glimpse of working in a professional atmosphere.”
Smith stated, “the rigor of CVGS, combined with those of RHS AP classes, has prepared me for the academic challenges that I will experience in college.” His future plans are to “attend Duke University in the fall and receive a bachelor’s degree in computer science. As of now, I hope to gain a career as a software engineer.”
With Smith unable to give his Valedictorian speech in front of his peers due to graduation being altered, he says, “So, this spring was definitely not what we envisioned. Who would’ve thought that our last semester would end like this? We’re all making sacrifices and adjusting to a new normal we never would’ve predicted, whether it be health care providers on the front lines against COVID-19, educators trying to teach from a distance, or even us seniors having to miss out on what we looked forward to for years.
“Times may be tough now. Even so, let this be a message of encouragement and hope. Have faith that none of these sacrifices will be in vain and that when this pandemic is over or at least not as bad, we’ll all be able to make up for this lost time. And remember we’re all in this together.”
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