Valeria Valle is among the first class of students to graduate from Thomas Jefferson High School’s International Baccalaureate program, which focuses on academically rigorous curriculum to develop critical and independent thinking. The Westside school’s valedictorian, Valle said the rigor of her classes made the switch to remote learning hard, but not impossible.

But her last semester was a challenge for another reason. Her father, Adrian Valle, died in March after spending several months in hospice. Valle’s relationship with her dad inspired much of her future ambitions.

Together, the two enjoyed doing face masks and chemical peels. While in high school, Valle drew on this passion when she started a cosmetology club. The high school valedictorian is now considering a career in dermatology.

This fall, Valle will attend the University of Texas at Austin and study biochemistry with hopes of later enrolling in medical school.

Some of her favorite memories from high school were her experience in the cosmetology club and Martha Jefferson Randolph Society, a sorority named after the daughter of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson High School’s graduation was June 11.

Below is Valle’s graduation speech.

Writing this speech was difficult. I’m afraid of not being able to voice a farewell that simply represents this year. Our lives have changed completely. The coronavirus took the last few months of our senior year. We were unable to say our proper goodbyes, experience that last slow dance at prom, or the joy of graduating as all our loved ones cheered to their heart’s content. This is not what the Class of 2020 deserved. 

It’s unfair that, after all the hard work and dedication put in, our last days together were stripped away, that we were unable to commemorate our achievements and celebrate the way we had imagined. And this vile force keeping us 6 feet apart might not end soon. However, it is in times like these when we must also look at the good, as God places dreadful events in our lives, he also gives us reasons to remain afloat and fighting. 

And so, I would like to take this moment to remember our motto, In Omni Uno. Because that’s what Jefferson has become, one amazing community of people who love and care for each other like family. I’ve received incredible support from our Jefferson family.

This year, I experienced the worst pain imaginable with the loss of my father. It was the support of my family, Jefferson family included, that kept me going in these dark times. Despite knowing I will never experience my father’s warm embrace again, I know he’s looking down on me with tears of pride and joy.

Though we may not walk the halls of Jefferson again, we will remember the people who made school feel like home. Ms. Garza, our amazing counselor, who is living proof that Jefferson is a family; Ms. Flake, who nurtured my love for science for four years; Mr. Mock and his many Star Wars references; and Mr. Garcia, who never let me go hungry as we would be chismeando or, as he says, “spilling the tea” over chicken strips, thank you. 

I hope every senior here has felt as blessed and loved by the Jefferson community as I have, and my wish for all of us is that we continue to be blessed and have faith that this distance from each other is not forever. Good times will come again, Mustangs.

Valeria Valle is Thomas Jefferson High School's 2020 valedictorian.