Rachel Lynn Waldrop was named the Jackson High School Class of 2020 Valedictorian, and Keiyana Nijae White was named the Salutatorian.

Rachel Waldrop is the daughter of Andy and Renee Waldrop.

Keiyana White is the daughter of Angela Johnson and Roderick White.

Both recorded their speeches last week for the virtual graduation video being produced by the Butts County School System. While they couldn’t give them directly to their fellow classmates, both Waldrop and White had words of encourage for them.

Waldrop stated in her speech that the Class of 2020 is the “undaunted” class.

“We are a special generation because we were born in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and now we graduate amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Waldrop said. “In other words, our generation has been defined by some of the most notorious, world-changing events; but, we did not let them deter us. We have grown and matured amid the gloom of events outside of our control; we not only survived, we have persevered, allowing nothing to stand between us and this milestone.”

Waldrop went on to say that the Class of 2020’s story is not over, but is just beginning, and she asked her fellow classmates how they are going to change the world.

“The class of 2020 has already taken the first steps toward enriching the world: we have volunteered to serve our community through Relay for Life and service clubs; we have proudly represented our extracurricular activities by attending nationals and state playoffs; and we have the highest number of honor students and the highest graduation rate in JHS history,” Waldrop said. “We are the class being shaped by history in the making, so why stop there? Among us may be the ones to help find a cure for COVID-19, the ones who will protect our freedom and democracy, or the ones who may become artists that show the intricacy of humanity. Nothing has stopped us from reaching this moment, so what is there to stop us from changing the world?

“For the past four years, we have been steadfast in approaching what life launched at us,” she continued. “Our world changed in the blink of an eye on September 11, 2001, and it changed again in January 2020. Change in the past has been frightening and negative, but the class of 2020 stood courageously through it all. Though we are unable to meet together to receive our diplomas and turn our tassels as a united class, we should still embrace who we are and the uniqueness of others, what we have accomplished, and what we will achieve in the future. The world is waiting to be changed, so let us continue to stand undaunted and enjoy the journey.”

White told her classmates about two kind of students, Student A, who was an above average student, who participated in various school activities and clubs, and was never late to class, and Student B, who was an average student, who participated in few school activities and clubs, and was always late to class. She asked her classmates to think about which student they were, and told them to remember three things, no matter where their journey takes them.

“The first is very simple. Don’t ‘fit’ in, but rather belong instead,” White said. “It is not possible to only be Student A or only Student B. The reality is that the perceptions of others can be limiting. By choosing to belong and accepting the differences of those among us, we allow ourselves to grow and expand our horizons. This is why it is important to belong.

“The second thing to remember is to control what you can control: in life you will experience many ups and downs. You may be treated unfairly for a reason you cannot control, you may catch yourself in an argument with someone who has different world views, or you may feel that things will never go your way, but whatever the reason may be, remember to control what you can control. There is no reason to become vexed over situations you cannot change. Learn to adjust your response to these situations and this adjustment can make life a little less stressful.

“Finally, the most important thing to remember is appreciate your past,” White concluded. “We all started our journey either at Stark, Daughtry, or Jackson. Many of us met at Henderson, and now we all graduate together as Red Devils. Value your struggles and all the things you’d rather not remember. Value your lost friendships and relationships. Let those things be a reminder of where you started because those things have shaped you into the person that you are today and the person that you will be 30 years from now. Do not let your past define you, but instead allow it to shape you and help you grow because without the past, we would not have a future to which we can look forward!”

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