Emily Hofmann only spent two years at East Central High School, the lone high school in the 10,000-student rural school district east of San Antonio. She transferred to the district in her junior year from El Paso, but previously lived in South Carolina and Pennsylvania, the child of a military family.

Her ability to adapt quickly might be part of the reason she hasn’t found the transition to remote learning too challenging, although she does miss interacting with classmates in the classroom and playing sports. Throughout high school, Hofmann played basketball, ran cross country, and pole vaulted with the track team.

After graduating from ECHS alongside her class in a parade, Hofmann will attend the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. She will major in chemistry and plans to later attend medical school.

Hofmann has wanted to be a doctor her “entire life.” She was born with a heart defect and her experience now serves as inspiration for a future career in pediatrics.

Below is Hofmann’s graduation speech.

To say that we, the Class of 2020, have had an unusual senior year would be a severe understatement. Never in a million years would we have imagined that the week before spring break would be the last days of our senior year, that our sports and fine arts events that week would be the last we would ever participate in, that those were some of the last times we would eat lunch with our friends in high school, that the remainder of our classes would take place behind a screen, that we would never get to sign each other’s yearbooks or hug our teachers goodbye. 

We didn’t get any closure. This chapter of our lives came to an abrupt end, without warning. 

I know all of you have experienced similar emotions. What wouldn’t you give to have just one more day of high school to soak it all in before venturing out into the next phase of your life? The sound of the bells, Mr. Vigil’s dress code announcements, the rush of adrenaline you get when there’s going to be a tardy round-up and you have 23 seconds left to get to the main building from South Campus, the sound of people banging on the exit door of the Math/Science building to get to the stairs faster.

However, maybe it was a good thing that none of us knew those would be our lasts. Instead of dwelling on our impending separation from high school, our friends, our teachers, our coaches, and sponsors, we got to enjoy normal last days of high school. Our final memories are raw — they are what an average day for the last four years has looked like for us. 

There is something in the mountaineering world called a “false summit.” When hiking up a very tall mountain, you may think you see the summit, only when you arrive, you realize the true summit is still a distance away. False summits can be disappointing and unexpected. 

None of us expected our senior year to be cut short. Even though it may feel frustrating, we must remember the journey that brought us here. We have had four years of forming friendships, learning about the society we live in, becoming who we are. This pandemic could have started in August and cost us our entire senior year, but it didn’t. The majority of our senior year was still beautifully normal. 

Remember that even though you may feel as though you never got to reach the top of the true summit, false summits still have beautiful views. The beauty of school spirit during homecoming, the beauty of the sports and fine arts events we did get to have, the beauty of hearing encouraging words from a mentor, the beauty of talking with friends during lunch – it is these moments of beauty that we will remember far more than a formal graduation ceremony. 

While I am saddened at the time we lost together and the memories we couldn’t make, I will always treasure the memories I do have – memories that would not exist without all of you. I wish you all the best, and can’t wait until we can be together again. It has truly been a blessing to be part of the East Central community. 

Congratulations to the Class of 2020. 

Emily Hofmann is East Central High School's 2020 valedictorian.