Valley Seniors Honored at Virtual Awards Ceremony

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Bobby Degeratu, Contributing Writer

“Don’t Stop Believin’.” The words of Journey were echoed by Principal Ramona Esparza, kicking off the Virtual Awards Ceremony that took place on Wednesday, May 13th. As per Valley tradition, the senior class had their achievements recognized via a heartwarming virtual ceremony in lieu of a physical celebration. Put together by government teacher Vince Bognot with assistance from other Valley educators, the goal was to provide as authentic an experience as possible for a class whose concluding celebrations had to be modified in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following last week’s send-off parade, the festivities have continued as much as possible as the 12th graders prepare for their next steps.

The ceremony was filled with humor and much-deserved recognition. IBDP Coordinator Andrew Magness served as the host, radiating positivity and bringing a lighthearted tone to the event. The nearly hour-long video highlighted all kinds of accomplishments, from class valedictorians to scholarship winners to teacher awards given in different subject areas. Selections and honors were diverse, putting students who have been hard workers and incredible assets to the Valley community to be appreciated one last time. 

This type of celebration is a first for Valley, and despite potential fear that it would not feel the same as a physical event, many students offered their support and appreciation for the effort. “I think that even though the awards were digital, it was still an awesome thing to experience,” assured valedictorian Stacey Lubag. “I was so glad that they figured out a way to celebrate everyone, and it all came out super well in the end; I had a fun time watching!” 

The change was additionally met with positive reception with those who helped make it a reality, including counselor Amy Addante. “It was so different doing Senior Awards virtually. In almost every way, it was so much easier to do it virtually than to actually be responsible for all logistics of the night itself,” she expressed, having been in charge of the event since 2013. “Making sure everyone gets their invitation, the flowers don’t wilt, all of the awards and certificates are ready, and the students aren’t out of dress code is a lot!” Not everything can be replaced, however, as she noted the lack of student reactions and photos with proud families as a notable omission that could not be replicated virtually.

The award presentations were followed by a montage of senior students, highlighting their successes, scholarships, and accepted colleges. After high school, many have plans to continue their education, whether here in Las Vegas or halfway across the country. As many take this time to reminisce and think back to past memories, so do educators like Andrew Magness. 

“I have to say that being a teacher can be hard, but since I have come into teaching, I have only taught seniors,” he recounts. “This means we go on a whirlwind relationship for nine months and then we move on. It’s almost like a beautiful moment I get to have each year with each graduating class. No past history, just the honeymoon phase of the relationship. Which is why, selfishly, I love May for seniors. It is my opportunity to host goodbyes, celebrate successes, and see them walk the final graduation stage. It provides me closure. I get to see the finish line where many other teachers don’t. I am lucky.”

It may be the end of the road for their time at Valley, but the support for such a resilient group will never fade away. “I hope the seniors know we love and support them. We are Viking Strong but, most importantly, we are family,” Magness emphasizes.

As the official school year and celebrations come to a close, from everybody at Thor’s Hammer, we would like to congratulate the Class of 2020 and wish you all the best with your future endeavors. Many are parting ways with friends, teachers, and activities, but as Dominic Toretto put it in Furious 7, “no matter where you are, whether it’s a quarter mile away or halfway across the world, you’ll always be family.”