Avalon Muñoz had a front-row seat to her school’s senior traditions each year she spent at Edison High School. All four years, she had a place on the varsity basketball team and counted the older students among her close friends. She watched as they played in the senior-faculty basketball game, celebrated their prom, and marched through the campus hallways one last time, led by the schools’ drummers.

When the coronavirus closed school campuses, it took a while for students and teachers to adjust to distance learning, Muñoz said. The 18-year-old became familiar with the challenges of virtual meetings: At times classmates would interrupt one another, or a teacher wouldn’t notice a student attempting to speak.

But now Muñoz is looking ahead to the fall when she will attend the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa. She has a spot on the school’s basketball team and will study computer science. Muñoz will spend the summer working out in preparation for the next step in her athletic career.

Edison’s graduation took place on June 13 at Alamo Stadium. Below is Muñoz’s graduation speech.

It’s truly astonishing how time works. We perceive it too slow as we live in the moment, yet here we are, in what feels like the blink of eye, officially finishing our four years of high school together. Walking onto campus as a freshman, I wondered what it would’ve felt like to be the returning seniors walking the halls, coming back to experience their last first day of school. Despite what has occurred these last few months, we were lucky enough to at least have that moment, a last first day of high school. 

The pandemic may have prevented us from experiencing our well-deserved milestones such as prom, senior bash, senior-versus-faculty games, athletic seasons, fine arts competitions, and, of course, our last day of high school. However, this experience makes us unique and incomparable. We’ve adapted and overcome, willing to learn virtually despite it being our last weeks of senior year; we’ve continued working hard and motivating ourselves to get to this point. Above any obstacle, you’ll find us victorious.

When I was 7 years old, I participated in a rodeo event called Mutton Bustin’. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s basically an event to see how long kids can hold on to a sheep as it runs around a dirt pen inside a stadium. The day before the big event, my grandpa told me that what kids are going to want to do is look down at the ground as they hold on. “But not you,” he said. “I want you to try to keep your head up and look up as much as you can.”

Before I knew it, the rodeo staff picked me up and put me on the sheep. I was a little nervous but I remembered what my grandpa told me and hugged the sheep as tight as I could. Thanks to my grandpa’s advice, I won and received a shiny new belt buckle. Looking back at that moment, I realize that small piece of advice from my childhood can be useful moving forward.

Mount on and prepare yourself for what is going to happen as we take our next steps. The only thing between us and the rest of our lives now is this ceremony. Once we walk this stage, the gate opens, and we are set off into the real world. Our gate may be different from the graduating classes before and after us, but at the time of its opening, the ride is still the same. So, no matter how rough and bumpy the road may be, hold on.

Life is going to try and knock you down, but you just have to refuse to give up. Don’t put your head down and look down at the dirt. Look up and forward beyond the present, to your future. Set goals for yourself. Reach deep within and keep doing what you can to move forward. Our minds are strong and can beat the troubles that come our way. Hold on, and keep your head held high. 

You aren’t alone on the journey, either. You have friends, family, and mentors here cheering you on as you go through life. Who knows, maybe after all the hard work a shiny prize could be waiting for you, and you’ll look back knowing you enjoyed your lifetime.

Edison Bears, the Class of 2020 has yet to reach its full potential. We started as underclassmen learning the ropes and eventually grew into the leaders of our school as the upperclassmen. We’ve called ourselves the best class, and I accept this as true. We’re different; we had to possess the ability to be driven and finish our senior year in the midst of a global pandemic. Senioritis couldn’t touch us, though it wanted us to give up so bad it added stress, restlessness, and uncertainty. We learned inside the classroom for 13 years of our lives and the last months of it were moved to virtual learning in an online world. We adapted to these unpredictable events and proved ourselves resilient.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020. We did it!

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Avalon Muñoz

Avalon Muñoz is Edison High School's 2020 valedictorian.