CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) ─ This is not how high school seniors hoped their final year would be.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, sports, proms and graduation ceremonies were canceled. But one senior at the top of her class isn’t letting this bump in the road to ruin what she’s accomplished.
It was Isabella Corso’s dream to deliver the valedictorian speech during graduation at Cranston High School West. She said she didn’t know if she would be able to speak to her classmates considering the current circumstances.
“Having looked forward to this opportunity for such a long time. I didn’t think anything could make me any more grateful to be delivering a parting message to the Cranston High School West graduating class of 2020,” she said.
Restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic altered her plans. Instead of delivering her remarks in front of a packed house at the Providence Performing Arts Center, Corso expressed her time at West to an empty auditorium at the high school.
She said her class was special.
“We are made up of volunteers, fundraisers and essential student workers who complete their homework after eight-hour shifts, and we have an endless supply of compassion and kindness, constantly displaying these special gifts,” she said.
Corso is not only at the top of her class, but her grade point average of 5.194 is the highest ever recorded at Cranston West. She plans to major in economics at Harvard University in the fall.
“I know that high schoolers may sometimes have a bit of an attitude, but trust me, we understand the sacrifices our families have made in order to better our lives and for that, we will always be thankful,” she said in her speech.
Isabella’s mom, Kimberly Corso, said she’s beyond proud of her daughter.
“I always to tell her, her hard work has paid off,” she said.
Isabella’s dad, Joseph Corso, is not surprised by all that his daughter has accomplished.
“Just her striving to be better everyday,” Joseph said. “She just makes me prouder than I can be.”
“I take academics and hard work very seriously, but I’ve found that the relationships you build with those around you have just as much of an impact on overall success,” Isabella said. “So prioritize those most important to you, always.”
Principal Tom Barbieri said Isabella’s journey is only beginning.
“So Isabella has more work ahead of her than she’s already had and that is to go out into the world and everything you’ve heard, practice what you’ve learned here and make it better,” Barbieri said.
“Just seeing the kids I go to school with and seeing their passion and seeing them work hard I have so much faith that I’m going to be hearing so many kids names on the news doing all good things,” Isabella said, adding that it would make her so happy.
She hopes her final words of her speech comes true.
“Thank you for simply being yourselves and I hope that you enter the world knowing that you have the ability to change it for the better,” she said. “Stay in touch and I wish you all the best. Love Always, Isabella Corso.”
Isabella was the captain of her high school’s varsity tennis team and was involved in the academic telethon. She is also a lector at Saint Mary’s Church in Cranston.
She said the only competition that truly matters is the one you have with yourself to always strive to be better than you were the day before.
Everyone at Eyewitness News wishes the Class of 2020 the best of luck. Congratulations!
Web Extra: Isabella’s speech (full text below)
To be quite honest, I didn’t know if I would even be able to speak to you all today considering
our current circumstances. Having looked forward to this opportunity for such a long time, I didn’t think anything could make me any more grateful to be delivering a parting message to the Cranston High School West graduating class of 2020.
Before I begin to address the class, though, I need to take the time to deliver a sincere “thank you” to the faculty, staff, and families of West, to the Cranston Public School System Administration, and to all of the essential workers listening to me today.
As everyone knows, we would not have made it to this moment without your hard work and dedication to our well-being. I know that high schoolers may sometimes have a bit of an attitude, but trust me, we understand the sacrifices our families have made in order to better our lives, and for that, we will always be thankful.
But now I would like to turn my attention to my classmates. Guys, please take a deep breath. We’ve made it. Together, we’ve celebrated all victories – big or small – and now we can finally say that we’ve graduated. And believe it or not, ladies and gentlemen, we actually learned a few things along the way.
While I don’t really know who gave me any authority to stand up here and give advice or if I even have this power in the first place, I would like to share some of the most important things I’ve figured out during my time at West. (My original speech concerning this topic was 12 minutes long, but, wanting to stay consistent with the high school experience, I’ve decided to read the SparkNotes version.)
1. Work ethics are like snowflakes: no two are the same. All kids exhibit passion in different areas, and these areas, whether involving academics, a part-time job, or athletics, fo rexample, deserve more than anything to be respected and encouraged.
2. Just as one often seeks the guidance office in search of snacks, one must seek guidance in all aspects of life. Never be afraid to ask questions and always assume a growth mindset.
3. The only competition that truly matters is the one you have with yourself to always strive to be better than you were yesterday. (Unless, of course, you’re playing girls tennis. In which case, roll Falcons.)
4. As you may have guessed, I take academics and hard work very seriously, but I’ve found that the relationships you build with those around you have just as much of an impact on overall success. So prioritize those most important to you, always.
5. There truly is no better group of people to make up the next generation than those graduating today. We as a class were put on this Earth by some force that already knew all about our capabilities and resilience. We were made to create change, and though we may occasionally be a bit of a nuisance, we will never lose this unwavering passion.
Now, after contemplating for weeks exactly how to properly end my final opportunity to address this group, inspiration struck in the shower one afternoon. I thought I would be able to best sumthese past four years using an epic poem; something that tells the story of characters overcoming great feats and celebrates their achievements, because, my dear class of 2020, if any group of students deserves having their achievements celebrated, it’s you.
Although what I’m about to share has literally no other traditional characteristic of an epic poem, I have decided to claim artistic license and run with it. So here it goes:
The parents producing kids in years 2001 and 2002
Had no idea what would become of these unique few.
Watching us grow up in all areas of the city, state and country,
The world waited with bated breath to witness the fate of the fabled class of 2020.
The night before the first day of our freshman year, Cranston West stirred with anticipation
At the very thought of welcoming the class that emulated the mysterious power of this newgeneration.
Now freshman year was certainly no easy conquest
And I still shudder at the memory of taking a ‘foundations of physics’ test
But we remained in place despite being told to go home by the class of 2017
And shook off much of the nervousness that accompanies being the age of 15.
In this one year, the seed of greatness had been planted,
And as we began to leave hints of the future, the community could not help but be enchanted.
Each of our subtle victories comprised the overcast of red clouds that began to creep into the sky,
And this class so overloaded with talent and drive caused the air to electrify.
After months of, “my parent can take if yours will pick up,” sophomore year hit and left us more than ready,
To enter our respective activities with the 16-year-old confidence that gripped many.
The members of our class rocked varsity sports, theatre, academics, music, and art,
And the administrative emails almost ran out of space to list all of our accolades even though this represented only the start.
As juniors, we battled the infamous standardized test,
Ripping through difficult courses and stress in an attempt to complete our high school quest.However threatening this stage appeared, we fought back with our 339-person force,
Going on to win state titles in fundraising, Skills USA, and sports.
Once our senior year arrived and the red clouds broke to unleash the ultimate storm,
We greeted the fall by running through the halls in a mighty, all-black swarm.
Taking breaks from applying to college to upset La Salle and Cumberland we left no stone unturned,
Letting the rest of the state know about the alpha status that we had rightfully earned.
While the class of 2020 resume is certainly riddled with stories of high-achieving students and teams,
We go far beyond the traditional, well-rounded high school class in our characteristics as humanbeings.
We are made up of volunteers, fundraisers, and essential student workers who complete theirhomework after eight-hour shifts,
And we have an endless supply of compassion and kindness, constantly displaying these special gifts.
But because of that fateful day in March, this poem must be left unfinished,
Though there is no doubt in my mind that this experience will only further memorialize our class’s unmatched greatness.
I cannot pretend to know exactly what is in store after we go our separate ways,
But I do know that in each of our endeavors, the class of 2020 will never cease to amaze.
So, my dear classmates, though that epic concludes only one element of our story, it will certainly be told for years to come. I know that I’m being very cliché, but it really is difficult to put into words how privileged I feel to have been a part of this class.
I will miss you terribly, and if I could continue making you guys Quizlets throughout college, you know I would.
Thank you for simply being yourselves, and I hope that you enter the world knowing that you have the ability to change it for the better.
Stay in touch, and I wish you all the best.
Love, Isabella Corso