Karime Gonzalez is living proof that all challenges don’t look the same. While some races for valedictorian and salutatorian can become contentious, that’s not true in the case of her and ECI’s Class of 2022 salutatorian, Landon Goodman. Further, her journey to the No. 1 spot is unique in that she hadn’t always seen herself in that position.
“Being valedictorian was not a specific goal I had set for myself. My mom and dad raised me to always try my best in school. They have always stressed the importance of getting a good education as the foundation for life. I took their educational values seriously and always tried to go the extra mile. I also knew the race could go either way, and I learned to not try to be ahead of others but ahead of where and who I was yesterday. I learned and accepted that what matters is I always give my all to the best of my capabilities,” Gonzalez, an 18-year-old, said.
“I found out I was valedictorian through my good friend, Landon Goodman. After a morning meeting he had with our counselor, he texted our group chat and was the first person to congratulate me. I didn’t immediately feel a certain way because I was shocked. After the initial shock wore off, I was so excited. It has always been a close race; however, it has always been a friendly race, and I am grateful for that.”
In retrospect, she realizes it took a lot of hard work to get to where she is today.
Over the years, she has been a member of the marching band, Beta Club, 21st Century Leaders, TSA, student council, FBLA, the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Board, and the Citizens Bank Student Advisory Board. Further, she received the Academic E and Star Honor Roll all four years, had the highest average in several classes, received the UGA Certificate of Merit, completed the Fulford Leadership Academy, was a Presidential Honors nominee, and was dually enrolled.
All of this, Gonzalez admits, came at a bit of a price—but one that was worth it nonetheless.
“There were tough challenges to overcome. One of those challenges was balancing schoolwork with my social life and free time. At first, it was hard to juggle all the responsibilities that came with both. I felt like I had to prioritize one over the other. It took some time to find what works for me, but I eventually learned what kept me motivated in my work and what alleviated the stress from said work.”
One of those stress relievers, she said, was talking to somebody about how she felt. Two teachers she could always talk to and was influenced by were Kendall Hadden and Dorene Holmes who gave her “tough love,” which helped her in the long run.
With graduation right around the corner, she’s in disbelief this pivotal time in life has come to a close.
“School has been the biggest responsibility of my life, and it feels so unreal to close this chapter of my life. I know college is also school, but it is a different level I have not been completely immersed in along with other responsibilities. Even though I took dual enrollment classes, I do not know what being a full-time college student is like. Feeling how close graduation is approaching is a very bittersweet yet nerve-wracking experience.”
Overall, she says her experience at ECI has been like a “fever dream in a good way.”
Her words of wisdom for future valedictorian hopefuls? Make sure it’s a a serious goal but not all-consuming. Don’t to overwork yourself, as that often leads to burnout.
Moving forward, she will obtain a bachelor’s in computer science from Georgia Southern in hopes of specializing in something relative to that field.
Her parents are Lilia Demillon and Roberto Gonzalez, and her siblings include Leo Gonzalez and Leyla Yepe.