Kaylee McCullough said the COVID-19 pandemic has given her a new focus. She explained it has helped her to realize what is really important, including spending quality time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies in greater depth, and “really focusing on living my life and doing the things that I love the most.” (Parkland Secondary School/Submitted)

Parkland Secondary valedictorian sees positive in pandemic

Kaylee McCullough says COVID-19 pandemic has focused her choices

Kaylee McCullough spent two years planning and working toward what would have been a 10-day trip to Europe. It would have been one of the highlights of her final year at North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary school. Then COVID-19 hit.

“I was really ready to go, but three days before we were supposed to leave [in early March], it was completely cancelled,” said McCullough, who along with John Mark Soriao, is graduating as class valedictorian.

This disappointment was among the many McCullough and her fellow graduates endured over the next three months or so as COVID-19 has, and continues to, up-end every aspect of society, including the last three months of McCullough’s graduation year, a period that otherwise would have been the best part of high school. But far from being bitter or cynical, McCullough has re-framed the experience in hopes that her generation will emerge out this pandemic stronger.“The virus took away so much of the things that we were looking forward to,” she said. “So rather than focusing on the negatives, I hope that we can all focus on what the positives can be and that we can take more action in our lives.”

RELATED: Parkland grads mark end to high school in virtual ceremony

RELATED: Saanich School District cancels all international field trips to Europe and Japan

McCullough said she is still trying to figure what she is going to do after graduation because the COVID-19 pandemic has changed her perspective about her goals.

Earlier plans to attend university in the fall have given way to plans to take the year off during which she plans to work, but also do things that she has been putting off.

At the same time, materialistic things have lost their lustre, she said.

This focus on intangible experiences has manifested itself in a new spontaneity.

“Any time some one asks me to go out and do something, I don’t think about it now,” she said. “I just go and do it rather than being unmotivated or sitting at home or watching TV. I rarely ever watch TV now. It’s all about going out and experiencing things rather than just entertaining myself.”

McCullough said the pandemic has helped her to realize what is really important, including spending quality time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies in greater depth, and “really focusing on living my life and doing the things that I love the most.”

They include dancing, photography and painting. “I have always loved dancing and choreography,” said McCullough, who has been dancing and working at Allegro Performing Arts Centre. These pursuits might eventually lead to a career as a freelance photographer or in the entertainment industry.

“In the next couple of years, if cruise ships [are sailing again], I would love to be a performer, a dancer on cruise ships, and then later go on to university, somewhere like Ryerson in Toronto to study choreography,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its disruptions on the school system has not been without its professional and pedagogical drawbacks.

“I was pretty concerned because doing classes online is nothing like doing them in person,” she said. “You don’t get that personal connection. It kind of puts it all in our hands. It is all up to us about how much we do. Luckily, I had motivation and I’m getting it done, but it is not the same extent of education that we would have gotten in school.”

“Lots of my friends are definitely more concerned that they won’t be at the same level as everyone else going into university,” she added later.

McCullough also anticipates the economic effects of the pandemic will disproportionately disadvantage young people like herself, a point borne out by available statistics.

“I think it would be difficult to find a job, especially a high paying job,” she said.

This said, McCullough chooses to remain optimistic. “Rather than being negative or bitter about the situation, I think a lot of people have chosen to be resilient in a hard situation.”

Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island riders conquering new heights

With no races, cyclists tackle Everest challenge to lift community

Saanich police search for suspect accused of using stolen credit, debit cards

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers says suspect made numerous fraudulent purchases

Homeless woman sentenced to 18 months in jail for selling drugs to Victoria police officer

Officer paid $20 for a substance consisting of heroin, fentanyl and caffeine

Family restaurant to hold Saturday fundraiser for Beirut blast

Wrap and Roll will donate all sales to victims of blast

Police looking for witnesses of alleged assault in Burnside Gorge’s Cecila Ravine

Concerned woman pushed to the ground, had phone broken while taking a photo of a dog

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Fitness non-profit challenges citizens to invent a game to be physically active

The campaign was launched after a study showed only 4.8 per cent of children and youths in Canada met required standards of the 24-hour movement guidelines

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

Vancouver Island team takes on wacky challenges of world’s largest scavenger hunt

Greatest International Scavenger Hunt taking place Aug. 1-8

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Aug. 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Most Read