Members of the high school class of 2020 were born before 9/11, and they’re graduating at the height of a pandemic, meaning they finished the school year remotely. They didn’t have prom, and they didn’t walk the stage to receive their diplomas. Dallas ISD plans to hold graduation ceremonies via Zoom, and the community has stepped up to “adopt a senior” or decorate yards and find other ways to celebrate.

ELIAS CALIXTO

VALEDICTORIAN /ADAMSON HIGH SCHOOL

Elias, 18, plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin.

HIS ADVICE FOR INCOMING FRESHMEN: Always be kind. You never really know what someone may be going through. Get involved in after- school activities. My best memories of high school involved one extracurricular or another.

PARTING ADVICE FOR THE CLASS OF 2020:

Always try to make the best out of every bad situation. This virus has taught me to be more appreciative of everything I have. I don’t want my class to focus on what was taken from us but rather look forward for the fun adventures that life has in store when this is all over.

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS FROM HIGH

SCHOOL: Don’t depend on anyone else for your happiness. It’s important to learn the value of self-love. Another lesson is to have fun! High school should be a time to enjoy your teenage years before you have to be forced to take on the challenges of adulthood.

SAUL NIETO

VALEDICTORIAN/ MOISÉS E. MOLINA HIGH SCHOOL

Saul, 18, plans to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and major in engineering. He participated in theater tech and in his free time, he plays video and card games.

ADVICE HE WOULD GIVE TO INCOMING FRESHMEN: It’s going to be a big change from what you are used to, and chances are, you will be called a “fishie” by most upperclassmen, but don’t let it get to you. You’re also bound to make mistakes, so don’t worry too much, because it isn’t the end of the world. You will get over it and learn from it.

PARTING ADVICE FOR THE

CLASS OF 2020: The world is an even less pretty place right now, but you shouldn’t be discouraged by it because the world isn’t going to stop for you. You need to get up even more than before to make the best of a bad situation.

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON HE LEARNED IN HIGH SCHOOL:

Just because you can leave something until the last day does not make it a very good option. I didn’t learn that until recently, and for the most part of school, I procrastinated on every assignment. I have pulled all- nighters due to procrastination, and that is not fun at all and causes a lot of stress.

FRANK WILLIAMS

VALEDICTORIAN / SUNSET HIGH SCHOOL

Frank, 18, plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin and major in biology.

ADVICE FOR INCOMING FRESHMEN: Work

hard, be committed and stay focused. Take full advantage of any opportunities that come your way. My high school experience was cut short, as I didn’t get to attend prom or say proper goodbyes to my classmates, and now won’t get the chance to walk the graduation stage. You will never know when another opportunity will resurface.

PARTING ADVICE FOR THE CLASS OF 2020:

I know times seem strange and unusual right now, but don’t let that stop you from continuing to achieve great things in life. As this chapter comes to an end and a new one begins, we have an increased opportunity to become productive citizens in society when we enter adulthood.

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON HE LEARNED

IN HIGH SCHOOL: Set high expectations. Coming from middle school, I didn’t see myself as academically capable, causing me to choose on-level and elective classes, which did not provide an adequate challenge. But once I began high school, I excelled and increased my expectations.

PATRICIA MEZA

VALEDICTORIAN / TRINIDAD GARZA EARLY COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL

Patricia, 18, plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin and major in international relations and global studies.

EXCERPT FROM HER VALEDICTORIAN SPEECH:

What a unique and even revolutionary time we’re in. I also feel the disappointment you may be feeling, missing out on prom, our final senior activities, ending of our sports seasons and senior nights, walking across the stage during graduation, even having proper goodbyes from the amazing staff that has supported us constantly. But there is hope, despite the vast ambiguity before us. We have not been robbed of the milestone that this is as we continue to step forward into our future.

GISELA ORTIZ

SALUTATORIAN / SUNSET HIGH SCHOOL

Gisela, 18, plans to major in business and dance.

PARTING ADVICE FOR THE CLASS OF 2020:

We didn’t have the senior year we expected, but that shouldn’t hold us back. Many things probably changed for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end. We are only beginning our future, and we have the power to pave the road we are on.

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON SHE LEARNED

IN HIGH SCHOOL: Don’t be afraid to showcase your individuality. Many doubted my academic abilities because I was a dancer. When I would tell people that I was in the top of my class, they were shocked that a dancer could be so determined and intellectual. When other top students talked about wanting to become neuroscientists or biologists, I felt discouraged for wanting to pursue the arts. I soon realized that everyone has their own path.

ITZELL GAMINO

SALUTATORIAN / ADAMSON HIGH SCHOOL

Itzell, 18, changed her college plans because of the coronavirus. She plans to attend Richland College and then Texas Woman’s University to study psychology and criminal justice.

HER ADVICE FOR INCOMING FRESHMEN:

Become more involved. It’s important to have a support system, avoid procrastination and be yourself.

PARTING ADVICE FOR THE CLASS OF 2020:

Enjoy every moment, including the smallest ones, because you never know what you have until it’s gone.

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON SHE LEARNED IN HIGH SCHOOL

Your mental health matters. Grades don’t define who you are, and it is okay to reach out to others when you feel overwhelmed.

NATALIE OLIVARES

SALUTATORIAN / MOISÉS E. MOLINA HIGH SCHOOL

Natalie, 18, committed to Tufts University and says she is considering international relations as a major. In her free time, she likes reading and doing crafts.

ADVICE SHE WOULD GIVE A FRESHMAN

COMING INTO HER SCHOOL: Don’t be afraid to be yourself. You’ll find a group of friends who will love and care for you as you are, not for trying to keep up with the status quo.

HER PARTING ADVICE FOR THE CLASS OF 2020:

Although we did not properly say goodbye to each other, I hope the great memories we made as the Class of 2020 are ones you can look back on happily.

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON SHE LEARNED

IN HIGH SCHOOL: Some friends will stay while others will go, and that’s okay. In all honesty, some friends I made my freshman year are not my friends now, while others I know I will be friends with for life. I cherish all of these friendships and as they all taught me lessons.

MADELYN BLAKE

SALUTATORIAN / TRINIDAD GARZA EARLY COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL

Madelyn, 18, plans to attend Messiah College and major in actuarial science.

ADVICE SHE WOULD GIVE TO INCOMING

FRESHMEN: Try to be on good terms with as many teachers as possible. This will help you not only in the future with recommendation letters and the like, but it will also help you maintain your sanity. Teachers will be more than willing to help you, but you have to ask them first.

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON SHE LEARNED

IN HIGH SCHOOL: Knowing where you stand, both academically and relationally, is imperative to getting where you want to go and avoiding situations you don’t want to be in. If you want to be ranked in the top 10, know what your grades are and how to improve them. If you want to love and feel loved, know what love is. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Shying away from it will only hurt you.