We are proud to announce this year’s valedictorian, Alex Raymond! This incredible student of ours is unique and talented in just about every way.
He will be speaking at the graduation ceremony happening May 31.
In the meantime, we asked him a few questions so you can get to know him. Here they are:
What’s something that makes you unique?
“As weird as it might sound, something I really like to do is find things I’ve never heard of, and then learn everything I can about them. For example, I’ll go ahead and find a movie, TV show, book series, game franchise, art piece, etc. and I’ll read everything I can about that thing. Then, that’ll lead me to other mutually related things, and I’ll do a deep dive on those things. I’ll watch videos on those things, listen to podcasts about them, and read articles on them too. This means that over my lifetime, I’ve accumulated a bunch of completely random information about my hobbies that will never be relevant at any point in my life, but man oh man, I find it interesting! It also goes to show that being interested in something can really help engage your mind, which I’ve tried my hardest apply in my classes as well.
Then, I feel like the thing that makes me the most unique, and sets me apart from others, is that I really really care about the people around me. I try very hard in my day to day life to help and enable the people I care about to be the best they can be. For example, this means that I spend a lot of time taking care of my little siblings, and I put a lot of my effort into helping them. I also try to give as much verbal support as I can to friends and family, and I really want to focus on helping to lighten everyone else’s load. This does mean that I end up not putting much focus on myself, but I’m trying to get better about that.”
What made you decide on iSucceed?
I became interested in iSucceed in a bit of an indirect way. When I was in my Freshman year of high school, I had a major concussion that left me with debilitating vertigo, headaches, noise sensitivities, and light sensitivities. This meant that I had an incredibly hard time walking, talking, thinking straight, reading, going to school, and doing anything else you can imagine that doesn’t involve just lying in bed. I ended up out of school for nearly 2 months before the principal of Eagle High called my mother up to discuss my lack of attendance, and how I’d need to drop out for a semester if I couldn’t come back right away. The principal also stated that my only other option other than dropping out was to go to Eagle Academy (and that wasn’t an alternative I wanted to go for). Thankfully, I remembered a friend of mine who’d done online school before, and that’s when I found iSucceed.
Before I started at iSucceed, I remember being really worried that I wouldn’t be able to get where I needed to be academically anymore. I struggled with reading complete sentences, and I’d often get really nauseous if I did too much work. However, the accessibility and lack of a rigid schedule made it so I could work at my own pace, take sufficient breaks, and work to be in a good spot mentally and physically. iSucceed gave me the tools I needed to build myself back up, and then when I was finally ready to go back, I didn’t want to. I found that not only was I able to work to catch back up, but the fluidity of the system meant that it worked much better for my learning style. The staff also seemed like they really cared and wanted to help me get to where I needed to be. This support, fluid structure, and encouragement all worked together to create a system and environment that really worked for me. And from the time I realized that, to now, I’ve become increasingly grateful for the opportunity I was given. Without iSucceed, I don’t know how else I would have been able to get back on my feet.
Has it always been your goal to be a valedictorian or salutatorian?
“No, not at all. In fact, I was really shocked when I got the email saying that I was going to be class Valedictorian. All I’ve been trying to do from the start was to put forth my best work, and to not give up (even when it feels like I’d really like to). I honestly never thought that my grades would have landed me an honor like this, and I most certainly didn’t expect it. I know that there are many talented and smart students out there at iSucceed, so I figured one of them would have gotten it instead of me. However, the fact that I was chosen is a real honor, and I’m excited to be able to represent my class!”
How did you maintain such good grades?
“The way I worked to maintain my grades is fairly simple. I am—without a doubt—my own worst critic. So, if I was working on an assignment and I wasn’t happy with it, I wouldn’t stop until I was. Or, if I needed to complete something, I’d push myself until I had it accomplished. This led to a lot of long work sessions, and a lot of long nights. However, I’d always land on these two questions: Would I really be satisfied with work that was less than satisfactory? Or would I rather put in the effort, and end up feeling like I did the best I could? I always ended up going with the latter.”
What is something you’ve been able to accomplish because of attending iSucceed?
“I think the most important thing I’ve been able to accomplish because of attending iSucceed is a bit intangible, but I swear it makes sense once you hear it. I think that through iSucceed, I gained a deeper understanding of self-responsibility, especially when it comes to doing things you may not want to do. For example, I usually don’t mind working on school, but at times there’d be a particular assignment that’d stick out as being difficult to me. So (especially early on), I’d move onto another class in hopes that I’d understand it when I got back around to doing it. This led to many situations in my first few quarters at the school where I’d just stop working on the class, and then have to go back around later to clean up the assignment. However, I’d understand it even less because a significant amount of time would pass, plus then I’d have forgotten certain other important things. This meant that in avoiding doing the assignment, I’d have created a whole extra set of challenges for myself. So nowadays whenever there’s something daunting that I don’t want to do, I try my hardest to bite the bullet and just get it over with. Procrastinating doesn’t help anyone, except for maybe your anxiety.”
Did you have a teacher or counselor here at iSucceed who helped?
“Absolutely! I’ve had many wonderful teachers during my time at iSucceed, however, I don’t think I can talk about each and every one of them. So, instead of trying to write a massive novel about all the wonderful people here, I’m just going to focus on the first person who helped me when I started out at the school.
Mrs. Mary Salove was my first advisory teacher at iSucceed, and she’s the one who helped set the cadence for my experience at this school. She, being my advisory teacher, reached out at the beginning to make sure things were going smoothly. From there though, she invested time each week into checking up on me and making sure I was doing well. Having been in a pretty crummy situation leading up to this, having the positive reinforcement and check-ins made it feel less isolating. Every time I got to talk to her, she was incredibly positive, encouraging, and she made my school experience feel less like traditional school. It seemed like she genuinely cared whether or not I succeeded in my classwork, and I think the rest of the school felt it too (evident by her winning teacher of the year). She was exceptional at being someone who made you feel like you matter, and I for one very much appreciated that.”
What are your plans after graduation?
“Currently, my plan after graduation is to go to CWI to begin working towards an elementary education teaching degree. Once I get my first two years done there, I want to transfer to BSU to complete my degree. Then when I’m finally done with my own schooling, I can go get a job as an elementary school teacher and help many other kids who are just starting out.
The main reason I want to become an elementary school teacher is just because I had a pretty rough elementary school experience. I had a few great teachers, but there were some others who really did more harm than good. Inspiring and helping kids fulfill their potential is exactly what I want to do, and I also want to help kids to avoid the bad experiences I’ve had. One less bad teacher can really help, evident by the fact that this school helped me as much as it has.”
Anything else you want to add:
“The final thing I’d like to add is that, while I don’t know everyone at this school, I’m really proud of everyone who also pushed through, or currently is. Online schooling can be really tough, especially when you feel like you lack motivation. So finding the ability to get up, get out of bed, and get your work done can be really difficult sometimes (especially with the rest of life’s challenges also piled on). That’s why, no matter if you’re getting all A’s, or you’re just scraping by, I’m really proud of everyone who’s doing it regardless of the challenges. It isn’t worthless, and your motivation and perseverance right now will pay off in the end.”