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Essential worker surprised on the job with valedictorian title

17-year-old Ava Curvelo kept her grades up through strikes and a pandemic while working part-time
Ava Curvelo, Holy Cross Secondary Valedictorian, next to school mascot Angus (for the day portrayed by principal Boon's son Sam). Pictured also; Principal Andrew Boon, vice principal Brandon Atamanyk and student services team Elizabeth Thomson and Erin Farkas. Photo: Supplied

If the graduating class of 2020 had a yearbook slogan, a fitting one could be: ‘Against all odds.’

Ontario high schoolers had a rough year that began in a drawn-out labor dispute and ended in total closure due to the pandemic, costing them countless hours of classroom time.

17-year-old Ava Curvelo from St Catharines Holy Cross secondary school didn’t let the turmoil get in the way of her grades - or her part-time job as an essential worker at the Fourth Avenue Walmart.

Now she can put ‘Valedictorian’ on her resume.

On Monday, she was expecting a slower than normal day at work as the store was closed for employee training - when suddenly her parents, and a team from her school led by principal Andrew Boon appeared.

Boon said the look on Curvelos face was priceless, as she tried comprehending why he was there, accompanied by the school mascot Angus (in fact, Boon’s son Sam.)

The surprise, coordinated with the store manager, kept on as the 30 co-workers gathered for the training erupted into appalause when she was presented with the title - and cake.

“She’s a great kid. She is taking this time to work and keep up with her academics, it’s amazing,” Boon said.

Thanks to his staff, he managed to pull the surprise off with social distancing in mind, while getting the chance to recognize the student.

Boon said many of his students are working hard from home thanks to his teachers tech-savyness and willingness to adapt to the reality that will see the schools closed for the rest of the year.

“Our teaching staff has been creating incredible opportunities for learning at home with many different platforms. I am very proud of how our staff has responded.”