The 2019-20 school year is coming to an end, and despite the unusual circumstances, the seniors at Lawrence High School are looking forward to the end of their high school careers.

The district’s students have been working from a virtual/remote learning environment due to COVID-19 since March 16, and the members of the Class of 2020 have kept up their studies and worked toward graduation day.

Although the district will not hold in-person commencement exercises this year, school officials have come up with a number of alternate plans to make sure this year is still a special one.

“Our seniors have worked hard and deserve to be celebrated,” said Superintendent Ross Kasun in a message to the community. “We wish we could give them a traditional graduation ceremony. Since that is not possible due to the pandemic, our high school administration has worked hard on creative ways to honor the seniors as well as to plan a virtual graduation ceremony.

The school district has announced a number of events to help the seniors celebrate their graduations, including a virtual ceremony on June 19 at 7 p.m.

States the school dirtsict website: “Our professionally produced virtual graduation will honor all our seniors and include the following: student speakers, the principal’s address, student performances, individual names and photos of each senior, the presentation of the senior class by the LTPS superintendent and the conferral of diplomas by the LTPS Board of Education president. The virtual graduation ceremony will be posted on the LHS/LTPS websites and run on the LTPS cable channel.”

The Gazette will post a story detailing the district’s other plans for upcoming celebratory events on this website in early June.

Meanwhile, to read about this year’s Top 10 academic seniors and their feeling about this year, turn to Page 6.

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Ian Wang

Rank: 1, GPA: 4.78

College: Yale

Major: Undecided

Career plans: Twitch streamer (twitch.tv/fullpinda)

Planned college activities: Intramural dodgeball and STEM stuff

LHS clubs and sports: Swimming and many clubs

Person who inspires you: Ian Thorpe, because he is the second greatest swimmer named Ian of all time.

How do you feel about the way your senior year turned out? When the going gets tough, the tough go home and take a nap. I’m tough.

Favorite high school memory: Spring 2019, AP Stat, Mr. Williams, lychee juice, water gun.

Tucker Simpson

Rank: 2, GPA 4.71

College: Dartmouth College

Major: Economics or Philosophy

Career plans: Law or business or some combination of the two

Planned college activities: Dartmouth Outing Club, club hockey 

LHS clubs and sports: Hockey, lacrosse, DECA, Model UN, student council and Model Congress

Person who inspires you: Dave Portnoy—his pizza reviews are top notch.

How do you feel about the way your senior year turned out? I have stayed busy during the stay-at-home period by getting a job with K & J Lawn Care, and trying to stay on top of my school work. As for the senior events being cancelled, as my Dad has always said, “Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.”

Favorite high school memory: Going to Orlando with my friends for the DECA International Career Development Conference.

Rikki Kong

Rank: 3, GPA: 4.64

College: University of Pennsylvania

Major: Business

Career plans: Consulting or business management

Planned college activities: I hope to join the Social Impact Consulting Group and the Wharton Management Club, but I am also open to joining any clubs that sparks my interest along the way.

LHS clubs and sports: DECA, STEM, Peer Leadership, NHS

Person who inspires you: My parents, because they are very determined and have really good work ethics.

How do you feel about the way your senior year turned out? I’m very bored at home and have been making dalgona coffee pretty much every day during quarantine. Although I’m sad that our senior year celebration has been cut short, I’m still grateful for the time that I had with my classmates and I wish them nothing but the very best. 

Favorite high school memory: Going to Florida with my friends for DECA.

Susanna Gagliardi

Rank: 4, GPA: 4.54

College: Virginia Tech Honors College

Major: Biomedical engineering

Career plans: Biomedical scientist/researcher

Planned college activities: Society of Women Engineers, Virginia Tech Orchestra, Outdoors Club

LHS clubs and sports: Science Olympiad, STEM Academy, Engineering Club

Person who inspires you: Between my parents, teachers, friends and family, there are too many remarkable people who have impacted my life to choose from.  

How do you feel about the way your senior year turned out? It’s definitely been hard to adapt and learn at home, and I miss seeing my friends and teachers everyday. 

It’s really sad that the Class of 2020 has to miss out on so many big events that we’ve been looking forward to since freshman year, but I know that this is beyond anyone’s control and everyone is just trying to make the best out of a bad situation. 

At the end of the day, I know that whether I’m in the school or not, I’ll always have the support of my teachers, friends, family and the Lawrence community. 

Favorite high school memory: Any time that I was with my friends, whether it was after school at Science Olympiad practices, baking cookies during out to lunch, or chatting while doing Mr. Marbach’s labs. 

Sadena Rishindran

Rank: 5, GPA, 4.46

College: University of Maryland

Major: Computer science

Career plans: Software developer

Planned college activities: Club basketball team, Association of Women in Computing.

LHS clubs and sports: Tennis team, basketball team, National Honor Society

Person who inspires you: Mr. Troy and Mr. Borlaza, because they’re the best teachers.

How do you feel about the way your senior year turned out? It’s sad and unfortunate that this pandemic had to happen during our senior year, and that we have to miss out on all the fun senior memories. 

Although I’d rather be in school with my friends, I can’t do anything to change the situation so I’ve just been trying to make the best of it.

Favorite high school memory: Playing at MCT’s for tennis with my best friend and the waffle party in Latin 3.

Devon Meth

Rank: 6, GPA: 4.50

College: College:Boston University

Major: Human Physiology

Career plans: Sports-oriented medicine

Intercollegiate sports: Cross country and indoor/outdoor track

Planned college activities: Club Penguin

LHS clubs and sports: DECA, Student Leadership, Student Council, National Honors Society, cross country, track, swimming

Person who inspires you: Craig Engels for all his running achievements and his mullet.

How do you feel about the way your senior year turned out? Anything to pass the time like biking, running, hiking, fishing, work, Xbox and online school. It’s unfortunate it happened during senior year but we’ll find a way to make up for it.

Favorite high school memory: Qualifying for Cross Country Meet of Champions and then passing out.

Pranav Phadke

Rank: 7, GPA 4.48

College: Northeastern University

Major: Combined Computer Science and Mathematics

Career plans: Software engineer

Planned college activities: Cultural and coding clubs

LHS clubs and sports: International Alliance, STEM Academy, Chemistry Club, Model UN, Wrestling, National Honors Society

Person who inspires you: Pranav Mistry, because after me, he’ll be the second greatest inventor named Pranav of all time.

How do you feel about the way your senior year turned out? I am pretty unhappy about the whole situation. I really want to go outside and spend time with my friends before I leave for college.

What is your Favorite high school memory? Singing “Beijing Huan Ying Ni” with Ian, Josh, and Harshil during International Alliance’s Culture Fest

Laasyasri Vaddepalli

Rank: 8,  GPA: 4.45

College:  Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences

Major: Computer Science

Career plans: Software engineer, data scientist or artificial intelligence

Planned college activities: Tennis club, peer tutoring, a community service organization and STEM-related clubs

LHS clubs and sports: Varsity girls’ tennis Team, National Honor Society, International Alliances, and STEM Academy

Person who inspires you: I think I am inspired by moments in my life rather than a single person. I reflect on my past experiences to improve myself and moments of appreciation and achievement to motivate myself. More importantly, I am constantly inspired by my family, peers and teachers everyday.

How do you feel about the way your senior year turned out? Although I feel like my senior year is incomplete, I still had special memories during the first half of my senior year. 

The stay-at-home period is definitely stressful, but I think that it also gave me the opportunity to spend time with my family during my busy high school routine. At the same time, I realize how valuable the time I spent with my peers and teachers was and wish I had enjoyed those moments more. Overall, while it is a difficult time in our lives, it is also a good learning experience.

Favorite high school memory: Playing on the tennis team and spending time with my peers throughout high school. However, the most memorable moment would be my first day of high school, walking in with mixed feelings of excitement and anxiety, but also innocence. It makes me realize how much I’ve grown throughout high school and how it changed me for the better.

Victoria Chen

Rank: 9, GPA: 4.43

College: Rutgers University School of Engineering

Major: Electrical/computer engineering and computer science

Career plans: Graduate school and then entering either the video game industry or cyber security

Planned college activities: Society of Women Engineers, Rutgers University Programming Association, Rutgers Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

LHS clubs and sports: LHS Color Guard, Science Olympiad, Game Design Club, National Honors Society, Student Leadership, STEM academy

Person who inspires you: My cousin Suesan. She has always been there for me even though she lives halfway across the country, and I have learned so much from her and her positive influence.

How do you feel about the way your senior year turned out? My stay-at-home experience has been mixed. On one hand I enjoy not waking up at 6 a.m. everyday, but I do feel a lack of structure to get work done since I am not in a school environment.

Favorite high school memory:  In sophomore year my teacher jokingly told me and a group of friends that we should still be studying when we went to Hershey Park. So we took a photo of us studying while on a roller coaster and gave it to her.

Ishitha Bhagwati

Rank: 10,  GPA: 4.4314

College: Rutgers University

Major: Computer Science

Career plans: Computer science

LHS clubs and sports: Interact Club, SAVE Club, Peer Leadership, National Honor Society

Person who inspires you: My father’s perseverance, my mother’s compassion, and my brother’s optimism inspire me to work hard, be kind and maintain a positive attitude.

How do you feel about the way your senior year turned out? It’s unfortunate that we won’t have prom and graduation, and I really miss seeing my friends. However, on the bright side, I get to spend more time with my family and even more time on TikTok. Also, I really enjoy not having to wake up at 6 a.m. for school any more. 

Favorite high school memory: Watching the pep rallies with my friends.