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SCHOOL - "Emily Duncan earns the valedictorian title for Bear River High School's Class of 2020"

BEAR RIVER HIGH - By Cari Doutre - June 14, 2020

Emily Duncan, Bear River High Class of 2020 Valedictorian - Photo by Amanda Archibald

Coverage of Bear River High School's Class of 2020 for The Valley Headliner -, is sponsored by Valley View Granite. Thank you for supporting local businesses and journalism in the Bear River Valley!

Becoming a high school valedictorian for a class that didn’t get the opportunity for a traditional graduation ceremony was something that Emily Duncan certainly understands.

As the Bear River High School’s Class of 2020’s Valedictorian, Emily felt a full range of emotions when she heard the news that she was at the top of her class academically.

“I was ecstatic that all of my hard work had paid off, but I also felt disappointed about the situation. I’m the valedictorian for the graduating class that did not have a real graduation,” she said.

Instead, Emily, along with the entire Class of 2020 at Bear River High, participated in a virtual graduation May 14-15. This in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic that required all public schools in Utah to close their doors to students in mid-March and participate in online distance learning only.

It was at that virtual graduation that Emily have her valedictorian speech to a nearly empty auditorium at the school.

In attendance were a few of her peers, a few family members, Bear River High administrators and the two-person team that owns Bear River Live, a local live-streaming multi-media company that recorded and produced the virtual graduation video.

“I was disappointed that my speech was going to be recorded. I had recently started competing in public speaking events at Future Business Leaders of America and was excited to do it in real life,” Emily said.

“It still turned out to be a cool experience though,” she added.

The entire virtual graduation experience ended up being more than she thought it would be.

“Virtual graduation was actually a lot better than I expected. Being on student council meant that I got to decorate the school for graduation, so that made things more fun,” Emily said.

Getting to that point in Emily’s life took years of hard work.

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Emily Duncan, Bear River High Class of 2020 Valedictorian - Photo by Amanda Archibald

“I had never even heard the term ‘valedictorian’ until I attended my sister’s graduation four years ago. When I found out about it, I knew it was something I wanted to do and have worked towards ever since,” Emily said.

Her plan worked.

Throughout the past four years Emily kept very busy - and not just with schoolwork.

She was a member of the Bear River High student council, the National Honor Society, FBLA, Key Club and the French Club.

Emily also played sports including track, tennis and cross-country – lettering in all three sports.

To top it off she also won plenty of recognition and awards during her time in high school. This year Emily was a Math Sterling Scholar finalist. During her time with the FBLA she took second place in Impromptu Speaking, third place in Business Communications and fifth place in Public Speaking in the state competition.

In the classroom, Emily enjoyed her ceramics, math, biology and French classes.

Beyond that it was the social interactions and her friends that have been the most memorable experiences from high school for Emily.

“Some of my most memorable high school moments were things I did with my friends – going to football games, goofing off in calculus, going to dances, greasing the wheels and even just talking in the commons,” she said.

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One thing Emily will always remember, however, is the last few months of her high school career.

“One of the biggest things this pandemic has taught me was to make the most out of every situation,” she said.

“At first all I did was feel sorry for myself. Now I realize that every change in our lives is an opportunity for learning and growth,” Emily added.

The entire pandemic experience also taught her another lesson.

“I think the coronavirus has really taught us not take anything for granted. We have learned to live life to the fullest and find the good in any situation,” she said.

This fall Emily will be attending Brigham Young University where she plans on majoring in mathematics. Even with her future plans set, she’ll still miss what she’s leaving behind.

“I will definitely miss a lot of people I knew in high school. I will also miss having little responsibilities,” she said.

Emily can tell you right now what she is not looking forward to as an adult.

“I am not looking forward to paying rent and everything,” she said.

Emily is the daughter of Brian and Charlotte Duncan of Tremonton.


Emily’s favorite activities and hobbies:

- “I like to play the piano, win Kahoot, go on hikes and hang out with my family and friends.”

Emily’s biggest fear:

- “I am terrified of mice.”

Emily’s favorite food:

- “Too many to choose. I really like ice cream, soup, bread and fruit.”

Emily’s favorite author and television shows:

- “Jerry Spinelli is one of my favorite authors and “Psych” and “The Great British Baking Show” are two of my favorite shows.

Emily’s dream vacation:

- “My dream vacation would probably be France and Italy. I was supposed to go there over spring break, but it got cancelled because of the coronavirus.”

Who does Emily look up to the most and why:

- “I really look up to my mom because she is constantly becoming a better person. She is much cooler now in her 40s than she ever was as a teen and I want to be like that.”


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