The Class of 2020 is no stranger to unique circumstances.
Born during a time when the nation was reeling from the events of 9/11 and, locally, dealt with the effects of Hurricane Katrina at a young age.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, graduation ceremonies will not look the same this year.
Bay High School’s 2020 graduating class has yet another unique factor, this year’s Valedictorian and Salutatorian are twins Emma and Madelyn Gonzales, respectively.
Their grade point averages were close. Emma’s is 104.10 to Madelyn’s 103.98.
The Bay St. Louis natives are the daughters of Sissy and Mark and sisters to John and Noah.
Madelyn said the sisters have been going back and forth between first and second place all during high school.
“Through elementary and middle school, we didn’t pay much attention,” she said. “We would check it just for fun. We didn’t get serious about it until late sophomore year.”
Both Madelyn and Emma said they didn’t “see it as a competition.”
“We’re just doing our school work and always tried to do the best we can,” Emma said.
Both girls said it’s been “really hard” to have their senior year cut short.
“It’s been really sad,” Emma said. “Our graduation is going to be unique, but not what I wanted to happen. I wanted a traditional graduation.”
Madelyn said that it was a “fitting way” for the Class of 2020 to make its exit.
“We were brought in during 9/11 and went through Katrina at a young age,” Madelyn said. “We’ve been a troublemaker class and it’s a fitting way to go out.”
Bay High’s commencement this year will feature a drive-in ceremony and a Jeep parade featuring each graduate.
Emma and Madelyn will deliver their speeches, which will be live streamed via Facebook and broadcast on public radio.
Both girls said they have been preparing their speeches and have been leaning towards writing about the challenges their class has faced that will prepare them for adulthood.
Even though the school buildings have been closed since mid-March, learning hasn’t stopped. The district has been utilizing distance learning.
Emma said she struggled a bit at first.
“It’s different than lectures,” she said. “A six minute video is different than an hour long class. It’s kind of prepping us for college, which I appreciate more.”
Madelyn said distance learning has been “pretty good.”
“In school you have one hour, now you have a week,” she said. “It’s hard if you are a procrastinator. You have to set aside the time.”
Both girls also work and have taken summer college courses for the past two years.
Both Emma and Madelyn will be attending Mississippi State University in the fall.
Right now, Emma is planning on pursuing a dual degree in accounting and chemical engineering.
Madelyn is still undecided, but said she is interested in pursuing interior design.