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“If you can hold yourself accountable during a pandemic, you’ll likely succeed during college where there’s no one who will tell you what to do at each time.”

Mountain View High School 2021 valedictorian Pamela Galindo never had a long term goal of becoming her graduating class’ number one, especially during such an unconventional school year. But it was the lessons learned during that strange school year that will help her even after high school. 

“I never really planned on it or tried to be number one. I just kept on studying and trying to get better at school,” Galindo said. “I found out at the start of April, and I was really shocked. I didn’t even tell my parents because it took me a while to process the news. I was trying to find the right moment to bring it up, and wasn’t sure how to put it into words.” 

Galindo’s family ultimately found out when the school district called them to let them know. Of course, they were very proud. Even Galindo’s friends and classmates were surprised, though it shouldn’t have been too much of a shock considering her high grades and time in Mountain View’s Academic Decathlon class. Galindo says she joined Academic Decathlon because she enjoyed studying about a variety of topics. Her win also came as a surprise to the other students in the top 10 of the graduating class. 

“They were asking how I got number one, and I was also shocked to get it,” Galindo said. “It’s not something any of us were expecting.”

Galindo was also previously chosen as a 2019 Arizona Affiliate honorable mention by the National Center for Women & Information Technology, a nonprofit community of more than 1,000 organizations dedicated to increasing women’s presence in the computing world. According to Mountain View, NCWIT equips leaders with resources for taking action in recruiting, retaining and advancing women from K–12 and higher education through industry and entrepreneurial careers.

Valedictorians often serve as a kind of figurehead for their graduation class. For Galindo, it’s a graduating class invariably tied to COVID and online learning. 

“The transition into everything being online was very strange. No one really knew what was going on or how long it would last, but now that we’ve been in it for a while, we understand how things are supposed to function,” Galindo said. “Online learning is a little challenging because you don’t get that face-to-face connection where the teacher can look over and re-explain things if everyone is confused. It feels distant, but now that we’ve been in it for a while, we’re all learning how to ask for help and tell the teacher we need more help.” 

However, Galindo can find upsides to online learning, and says the process will even help her and her peers after the pandemic is over. 

“You have to hold yourself accountable, and only those who hold themselves accountable will succeed,” Galindo said. “If you can hold yourself accountable during a pandemic, you’ll likely succeed during college where there’s no one who will tell you what to do at each time. It taught better time management and how to seek help if you really need it for a class.” 

After high school, plans to attend the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities to study mortuary science. She chose this major, not only because the concept of death fascinates her, but also because she wants to help friends and families through the emotional process of losing a loved one. 

As her class’ valedictorian, Galindo is tasked with delivering a speech at graduation, one which often involves advice for her classmates and future high school students who may be in the audience. Her advice: pay attention to what is happening around you—and if possible, try not to go to school during a pandemic. 

“Don’t ruin your freshman year over something silly. It’s not worth it to try to be popular at that time. Popularity will come if it has to come,” Galindo said. “And try to seek tutoring. You may not think it’s necessary or that you’re fine without it, but it can be very helpful, especially in the long run.”

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