21 Questions with the 2021 Valedictorian


After a difficult school year our 2021 Valedictorian, Jean Paul Gaviria, shared his high school experience with The Lodi Rampage. In our talk with Jean Paul he shares his plans after high school and which classmate he would swap lives with. Enjoy this game of 21Q!

Q1: How did you find out you were Valedictorian?

A: At the time, Mrs. Orosz was out on maternity leave, and Mrs. Cannici was in her place. She set up a Google Meet with me to share some news, and at the time I didn’t think much of it. That is, I had no idea going into the call that I’d be receiving such great news. 

Q2: How does it feel to be Valedictorian?

A: Being Valedictorian has incited an interesting mix of emotions to grow within me. It is an achievement that has made me feel unbelievably proud of myself, relieved that my efforts paid off, and excited for the future, but at the same time, I’ve been left asking myself, “Now what?” I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, and now it’s time to set new goals to work towards.

Q3: Can you share with Rampage what your speech is going to be about?

A: The commencement speech will be given by another student in the graduating class. But, my understanding at the moment is that the Valedictorian says a little snippet about the graduating class or his or her experience in school. 

Q4: From LHS, who do you believe impacted you the most?

A: Though I think they’re unaware of the impact they had on me, I will forever appreciate Komal Kaur. A flaw of mine for a long time, and that I’m still working on, is that I allow my insecurities to affect my personality. In a way, I begin to overcompensate with certain things or I begin to act differently to feel more secure with myself and with those around me; but, Komal called me out. She vocalized what I was too scared to acknowledge within myself and for the two years since then I have used her words to keep myself from making the same mistakes.

Q5: What are your plans for after high school?

A: In exactly two months I’ll be on a plane heading to Houston, Texas to study at Rice University. As a future mechanical engineer I hope to bring to life the inventions floating around in my head, and I’m excited for the internships (NASA, maybe?) to come.

Q6: Why do you think you were chosen for Valedictorian?

A: I’m unsure of whether or not the school takes into consideration other factors such as character or involvement when making the decision, but I’m sure it was mostly due to my GPA.

Q7: What extracurricular activities were you involved in at LHS? Outside of school?

A: At LHS I focused mostly on STEM activities such as the Science League, Math Team, and Math League with the addition of the National Honor Society to find volunteer opportunities. My freshman year I gave wrestling a try to prove to myself that I was capable of doing a sport. I may have been terrible at it, but I’m content with the fact that I ventured into such an unfamiliar endeavor. Outside of school I tutored friends, worked, and worked relentlessly to find new foods to enjoy.

Q8: What was the most rewarding volunteer opportunity you did?

A: I’d say that tutoring, as simple of an activity as it may seem, was definitely the most rewarding volunteer experience I had. I found that teaching others and seeing the moment when the material clicked in their heads was a very satisfying experience. At the same time, the tutoring helped me reinforce the material I was learning at school.

Q9: Who/what motivated you the most in school?

A: Mrs. Kushkuley, Mrs. Hansen, and Mrs. Perez were my greatest motivators in school. Mrs. Kushkuley and Mrs. Hansen, being so knowledgeable in their respective fields, unknowingly pushed me to learn as I developed a hope to one day reach their levels of expertise. Mrs. Perez motivated me in the way that a parent does, offering me her unconditional support and words of encouragement throughout my high school career.

Q10: What was the most challenging part of high school?

A: The most challenging part was definitely finding a way to stay motivated when I wasn’t feeling too well, mentally. The drop in my drive came mostly in the darker winter months, and my grades survived only because I tried my best to keep in mind my long term goals: college, a career, and an amazing life.

Q11: Describe the entirety of your high school experience in one word.
A: Bittersweet.

Q12: Tell us what life lesson you learned at LHS.

A: I learned that you have to create your own happiness. What I mean by this is I learned to depend on people less and to focus instead on what I like, what makes me happy, and what is going to make me a better person at the end of the day.

Q13: What is your favorite high school memory?

A: After sixth period, the other Felician students and I would take a shuttle to the university after which we would often eat and converse in the cafeteria for a bit before class. You wouldn’t expect a simple lunch to have such an impact on you, but it was during these times that I grew as a person and made lifelong friends.

Q14: If you could give one piece of advice to someone striving to be valedictorian, what would it be?

A: This may sound counterintuitive, but make sure to have fun. The greatest mistake you can make is to let yourself get to the point where you wake up one day tired of your school work, dissatisfied with your level of enjoyment in life, and simply put: burnt out. Enjoy yourself knowing that at the same time you’re trying your best and putting in the effort.

Q15: What faculty member do you think influenced you the most?

A: Though I admire a vast majority of my teachers, I cherish most the influence that Mrs. Hansen had on me. As my teacher she was unbelievably helpful, comedic, and most importantly, respectable. I learned from her the importance of conducting yourself in such a way that people want to respect you as opposed to feeling that they need to simply because of common courtesy or manners.

Q16: What is your biggest high school regret?

A: My biggest regret is not having asked for help sooner. There’s something about being a good student that makes you a bit prideful and a bit scared to admit defeat, but there’s nothing shameful about needing some assistance. If anything, the help you receive only works to make you a better student and a more efficient learner.

Q17: What will your major be in college?

A: I am majoring in mechanical engineering. I know I want to create, but I’m not sure exactly what I’d like to create or what I’d like to do with my future machines. Mechanical engineering gives me the opportunity to explore and eventually find my calling.

Q18: If you could go back to freshman year and redo high school, would you?

A: If given the chance, I would start all over again for a few reasons. The first reason is that I know now what I didn’t know then, and with all of my new knowledge I know that I’d be able to seek out better opportunities and experiences. The second reason is simply that it all went by too quickly, and I wouldn’t mind getting to grow up one more time.

Q19: If you could switch lives for one day with a classmate who would it be? Why?

A: I would switch lives with Kashmala Arif for a day because of how well-rounded she is. From soccer to editor of the yearbook, she’s done it all, and it’d be an amazing experience to be able to enjoy everything she works so hard for. 

Q20: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A: It’s so weird to think that I’ll be off somewhere in 10 years living a life completely different from the one I have at the moment. Four years ago I was a completely different person, so to tell you exactly where I’ll be is difficult, but I hope to be working as an engineer with the goal of bettering the quality of life for others. Having grown up experiencing poverty in Colombia, I pray that I keep my promise to go back and help the community I adore.

Q21: Any final remarks?

A: At this point, obviously in conjunction with discipline and hard work, I plan on enjoying the ride, and I hope you all do the same.