Despite the strain that online learning has placed on students across the country, some have excelled – and made history in the process.
Nine students at a Houston-area high school were named valedictorians in mid-April.
Yes, you read that right.
The students at Bellaire High School achieved a 5.0 grade point average, breaking the record for the most students to attain the title at the Houston Independent School District.
The nine valedictorians are Alkiviades Boukas, Daniel Chen, Evie Tseng-Ying Kao, Angela Ling, Miles Mackenzie, Wenson Tsiah-Hao Tang, Christopher Zhou and twin sisters Annie and Shirley Zhu.
“I began to consider the idea of two to three valedictorians, but I never imagined nine,” Bellaire High School Principal Michael McDonough said in a statement.
McDonough said that the 2021 class showed its excellence early on as freshmen. The students are involved in after school activities and lead various school organizations, he said.
“To juggle their schoolwork and extracurriculars, then throw in a pandemic and virtual learning, and still maintain a 5.0 GPA. It is nothing short of amazing. I could not be prouder of them,” McDonough said.
HISD calculates both “weighted” and “unweighted” GPAs. A weighted GPA accounts for courses known to be more rigorous, including AP courses or dual credit courses, according to the district’s website. Students with weighted grades can attain a GPA higher than the standard 4.0.
Twin sisters Annie and Shirley Zhu previously captured the spotlight when they co-founded Fresh Hub, a student-run organization that collects unsold food and redistributes fresh produce and bread to food desert areas in Houston.
“When coursework gets challenging and balancing academics with extracurriculars gets hard, remember to cut yourself some slack, because making mistakes is the best way to grow,” said Annie Zhu, who plans to attend Stanford University and major in symbolic systems, a program that encompasses various concentrations, from computer science to math to linguistics and philosophy.
Virtual learning during the pandemic has taken a toll on students and parents nationwide. Thousands of high school students have dropped out due to the coronavirus pandemic, which in some cases has exposed the inequities in the US education system.
“One of the things that I’ve really learned is understand how everyone comes from different backgrounds and so becoming more open-minded about my classmates’ situations in their households when we do group projects,” Annie Zhu said in a video produced by her school. “I think everyone is exposed to people putting the best version of themselves online. You should never compare yourself to the best version of other people.”