NORTH KINGSTOWN – With the 2019-2020 school year having come to a close, North Kingstown High School salutatorian Blake Land is getting ready to enter the next phase of his academic career, though not without looking back on a unique but memorable experience.
The North Kingstown class of 2020 graduated earlier this month and were sent off with a car parade and a virtual graduation–alternative means of celebrating the outgoing seniors, while sticking to COVID-19-related restrictions and guidelines.
The outgoing seniors final year at North Kingstown High School ended untraditionally, to say the least, with schools shutting down in March and distance learning being implemented for the remaining months. Nevertheless, Land spoke highly of their experience, though he acknowledged some disappointments caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the cancellation of various senior year activities.
But now that it’s officially over, Land is gearing up for life outside of high school.
Land will be attending the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, where he is hoping to study psychology and neuroscience. He said that, while he wasn’t yet sure what career or field he would be going into, he is currently considering attending law school after college.
Though his eyes are set on the future, Land said it was “very strange to realize” that he wouldn’t be going back to North Kingstown next year.
“While there were many points in the past four years when I thought high school could not have gone by any slower, it now feels like it ended too soon,” Land said on Sunday.
Land said that, while the year ended in an unprecedented way, with distance learning being implemented for the last few months, there were still several highlights throughout his time in high school.
“I definitely miss walking through the hallways and seeing my teachers–this year was especially difficult because one day we were going through our normal classes and the next day school ended for good,” he said. “Yet I am also proud of what I was able to accomplish academically and athletically, and I am grateful for the friends I have made and the teachers who have supported me. I think now more than ever before, it is important to look ahead, so I’m really excited for what is to come.”
Land said some of his favorite memories were playing on the school’s tennis team and the band, while also highlighting his experience playing percussion in the musical pit orchestra.
“I have so many great memories from my time at North Kingstown High School,” Land said. “My favorite part of every school year had to be the spring tennis season. While we were not the best tennis players, the comradery of the North Kingstown boys tennis team was one of the most memorable parts of my high school career. I was always excited to go to matches and practices because they were always funny, competitive, and a bit unique.”
“I was also a part of band at North Kingstown High School, and will never forget my time in the percussion section,” he continued. “I was a percussionist for all four years, and I would say that our senior percussion section was one of the best [fine arts teacher Toni] Silveira has ever had.”
Being a part of band, Land said, was “one of the best decisions” he made in high school.
“It was always a place I felt comfortable, and I’d like to thank Mrs. Silveira for making band such an amazing experience,” he said. “I additionally played percussion in the musical pit orchestra for three years, which is something I will definitely miss. The people I met and the memories I have from the long hours of musical practice to the sold out shows were a huge part of my North Kingstown experience.”
The salutatorian also gave a “big shoutout” to teacher and DECA Business Club advisor Richard Garland, one of Land’s favorite teachers.
“Mr. Garland’s classes never disappointed,” Land said. “He made business and finance interesting, and his sense of humor was unmatched.”
As for being named salutatorian, Land said that he was “somewhat surprised,” having not known where he stood in the class rankings, though he said he was “very relieved to have that closure.”
“I understandably spent a lot of time studying and preparing over the past four years, so I’m really happy to get this result,” he said. “People have joked with me about how close I was to being number one, but I am content with what I received and I have a great deal of respect for our Valedictorian.”
“My time at North Kingstown High School was memorable, and it’s awesome to be able to end it as the salutatorian,” he added.
However, Land said there were still some disappointments brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the cancellations of traditional senior activities, like a “true graduation.”
“Graduating this year was unique, to say the least,” he said. “It is certainly disappointing to miss out on the final spring sports season and all of the senior activities that were being planned, especially a true graduation.”
And though he said that experiencing distance learning and taking part in virtual events was “interesting,” he still wished the year had ended differently.
But Land said that the North Kingstown community “really came together to support the seniors and everyone who has been impacted by this pandemic.”
“I know that as a class, my peers and I will be well prepared for whatever we have to face in the future,” he said.