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OLB valedictorian looks toward a future post-pandemic

People of Collingwood: Emily Lawrence, 2022 Our Lady of the Bay valedictorian
2022-06-27 POCLawrence JO-001
Emily Lawrence is the 2022 Our Lady of the Bay Catholic High School valedictorian.

A lawyer, a teacher, or perhaps something in the arts; the 2022 valedictorian at Our Lady of the Bay Catholic High School is keeping her options open post-graduation.

For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we spoke with Emily Lawrence, 18, Our Lady of the Bay’s valedictorian for 2022.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I grew up in Wasaga Beach.

I’ve been at Our Lady of the Bay for all of high school, but I went to elementary school at St. Noel Chabanel in Wasaga Beach, except for two years I did an extended French program at Admiral Collingwood.

Q: You’ve been named valedictorian at OLB this year. Can you tell me about the process?

A: I still can’t believe it.

It’s primarily a student vote. We had a graduate breakfast, and the people who were interested in being valedictorian gave a two-minute speech at the breakfast to convince people to vote for them. Then everyone votes through a Google Forum, and the teachers and principal had a say as well.

Q: Do you participate in extracurriculars?

A: Yes. I’ve always tried to keep as busy as possible.

This year I did scorekeeping for the basketball and volleyball teams. I was in the badminton club. I was also in the school play we did this year. I do the morning announcements every day.

Before COVID-19 started, I was able to do a lot more.

I’ve done social justice committees, chaplaincy teams, I was an altar server.

I was on the basketball team in Grade 9 but we hadn’t had once since.

For my town, I was part of the Wasaga Beach Youth Advisory Committee. I chaired that for a while.

Q: What has your student experience been like, going through COVID-19?

A: It’s interesting.

For my graduating class especially, it hit us in a special way because we had a year and a half of normal high school, and then the rest has been through the pandemic.

When there were lockdowns, it was quite an experience, but not, at the same time. It was a whole new event for the entire world, but it was also just us sitting in front of our computers at home trying to pay attention to Zoom calls.

Everyone was dealing with their own (circumstances) at home, like internet connectivity. I’m always the person writing tests right up until the last minute so when there were internet issues, it could cause quite a bit of stress.

Q: How do you feel going into post-secondary, having had that unique pandemic experience? Do you feel prepared?

A: I’m very glad we got to be in-person for our last year. I feel it helped prepare me just a little bit better.

However, we haven’t had any senior exams. They were cancelled this year and last year.

The senior exams are generally harder and longer. When we go into university or college, we won’t have experienced that format. (I worry) we’ll have to do them multiple times.

It’s a little nerve-wracking in that sense.

At this point, after going through everything we have, the being-away-from-home aspect might be harder too because we’ve all been home so much.

In terms of maturity, I think the pandemic has helped us to mature and deal with things on our own a lot more.

Q: What are your post-secondary plans?

A: For my undergraduate, I’m going to Western University in their social sciences program.

Q: What are your long-term goals?

A: At this point, I’m trying to keep my options open.

I’m majoring in history for my undergrad. From there, I could go on to teach history at the university level. Also, history is one of the recommended undergraduate programs for law school. I could end up being a lawyer.

Or, I could choose to chase my dreams and go into the arts as a career. Who knows?

Q: What part of the arts interests you?

A: I love all the arts. I have one foot in everything so it’s hard for me to decide what I love the most. I’ve been involved in music since I was a kid. I love acting, drawing and writing. If I went into the arts as a career, I’d probably try to do it all.

Q: Do you have any advice for students in younger grades?

A: My brother’s four years older than I am and when I started high school he gave me advice I wish I had listened to more.

He said to try to be social and put myself out there, because I can be shy.

I wish I’d reached out to more people and tried to make more friends. I think it’s an easy trap to fall into that when you go to high school you stick with the people you went to elementary school with, and only occasionally reach out to other people. When Grade 10 and 11 rolled around, people had found their friend groups.

I love my friend groups, but there are some people I didn’t talk to much and I don’t know that well. It’s sort of disappointing when you’ve spent four years with them.

Also, don’t stand in the middle of the hallway. That’s a big one. (laughs)

Q: Is there anything else you’d like people in Collingwood to know about you?

A: I’ve grown up in my town, but came over here to go to school here.

In a way, I’ve spent my most formative years here and I’ve always tried to be the best person I can be.

That’s what I’m going to (keep) trying to do after graduation.

For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 12 years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood, County of Simcoe and education.
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