2020 Commencement Speeches Inspire Hope Amid COVID-19

Maybe this year, more than any other year, the audience really listened as the top two graduating high school seniors for the Class of 2020 gave their commencement addresses whether live, virtual or both. They represented the loss, the determination and the hope that each of their classmates was feeling, and they did not disappoint.

The eight valedictorians and salutatorians from the Comal Independent School District reminded their classmates of all the great memories they shared; thanked their teachers and parents; and offered a few words of advice and challenges. They simply spoke from their hearts.


Canyon High School

From Canyon High School, valedictorian Trinity Williford reminded her classmates what it was like to enter the crowded hallways as a freshman and how quickly the years went by. She left them a little advice too.

“Remember, that life will be tough but beautiful. The choices you make will affect the outcome of your life, and there will be events outside your control, but how you respond in those situations will affect the very next thing.” Williford plans to attend Dallas Baptist University and study biology.

Salutatorian of CHS, Sarah Hunter Vestal, challenged her fellow classmates to welcome the unknown with open arms and know that the last 18 years have prepared them for the future.

“The experiences we go through with our friends, family, teachers and coaches are the most valuable assets we’ve gained from the past four years,” Vestal said. “Nothing is more important than the relationships we have built. As we go on to start the next chapter, I hope that we hold on to those relationships and appreciate the little things in life.” Vestal plans to attend Bucknell University and study engineering.


Canyon Lake High School

From Canyon Lake High School, valedictorian Kalani Thorpe focused on the positive outcomes of COVID-19 including how the Class of 2020 persevered and showed great resilience in the midst of online classes and great disappointment. She also reminded her fellow classmates that they are the generation of unity.

“Since we were born, there have been many times in which this world saw tragedy shortly followed by unity, both big and small,” Thorpe said. “I believe our generation has the potential to unify our world. Nothing is normal at the moment so it’s our time to set the standard. We have been given the perfect opportunity to show the world that working together isn’t something that happens every now and then but something that can happen every day. Every change starts somewhere, so why not here?” Thorpe plans to attend Colorado State University and study computer science.

Salutatorian Madeleine Morris from CLHS encouraged fellow classmates to find their passions and spread kindness. She challenged them to make the world a better place.

“All of us hold the potential to go out into the world and make a valuable contribution to society. I encourage you to consider the need for kindness. By simply holding a positive attitude, we can tremendously impact those around us.” Morris plans to attend Dartmouth College and study neuroscience on a pre-med track.


Memorial Early College High School with St. Philip’s College

From Memorial Early College High School with St. Philip’s College, valedictorian Emma Vequist spoke about change and remembered what it was like her first day as a freshman at MECHS and how her teachers and parents encouraged her over the past four years.

“Change is terrifying,” Vequist said. “I would probably call it my greatest fear, but change is inevitable. As much as change can tear down, destroy and break; change can also build up, create and mend. It all depends on how you welcome the coming change. I want to leave everyone with one last question, ‘When change knocks at your door, will you fear it, or will you welcome it?’” Vequist plans to attend the University of the Incarnate Word and study biology and mathematics.

Salutatorian Kyle Weidenfeller from MECHS shared many memories and expressed his appreciation to teachers, parents and classmates.

“I have changed so much as a human being in just the past four years,” Weidenfeller said. “I genuinely cannot express how much everything that has happened to me from the monumental highs to the catastrophic lows has meant to me. I truly cannot thank everyone enough.” Weidenfeller plans to attend the University of Texas at Dallas and study arts, technology and emerging communications.


Smithson Valley High School

From Smithson Valley High School, valedictorian James Mendez challenged his fellow classmates to live with a purpose.

“Being mindful of a purpose affects your day-to-day life, and it shapes who you become. We’ve seen how unpredictable the future can be, so live with a purpose and don’t waste the precious time we have been given,” said Mendez, who plans to attend Harvard University and study biomedical engineering.

Salutatorian Audrey Pauletti from SVHS proposed that graduation is not truly an ending but just the introduction of the movie of each graduate’s life explaining that the memories made will only help in developing the plotline.

“We have just completed the beginning of our stories in high school. We have defined our characters; met mentors; developed ambitions. Our experiences have formed a strong foundation to begin. Soon we will move on to the action scenes of our lives,” said Pauletti, who plans to attend the University of Texas at Dallas and study computer science in the fall.

No doubt, these speeches reminded graduates and parents of the victories and losses shared along with the hope and excitement for what is to come.





-Canyon High School Valedictorian Trinity Williford and Salutatorian Sarah Hunter Vestal.

-Canyon Lake High School Valedictorian Kalani Thorpe and Salutatorian Madeleine Morris.

-Memorial Early College High School Valedictorian Emma Vequist and Salutatorian Kyle Weidenfeller.

-Smithson Valley High School Valedictorian James Mendez and Salutatorian Audrey Pauletti.



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