Shannon, Barrow top Class of 2020

Shannon, Barrow top Class of 2020

Satrina Shannon, valedictorian, left, and salutatorian Nicholas Barrow.

NORTH PROVIDENCE – North Providence High School has announced that Satrina Shannon is valedictorian of the Class of 2020, joined at the top by salutatorian Nicholas Barrow.

Their K-12 education is coming to a close in the midst of a global pandemic and economic crisis, and the experience of leaving school in the middle of the year, not knowing when or if they’d be returning, was “shocking, to say the least,” Shannon said. “Everything escalated very quickly.”

“No one thought our last day was going to be our last day,” Barrow said. Even with graduation, prom and the other typical end-of-year senior activities, Barrow said the last day of school for 12th-graders is significant.

“After 180 days in school for 12 to 13 years, that last day for a lot of students represents a true sense of accomplishment. You have one more day to walk around the school and say your goodbyes to people you may not see for a long time, or ever again,” he said.

In Barrow’s words, it was an “anticlimactic” end. COVID-19 “threw a weird twist in the mix, giving us no closure,” he said.

Before schools closed, both students were actively involved in activities.

Shannon and Barrow met during mock trial their freshman year. Shannon was a part of the freshmen math team, and spent time tutoring students in the subject at Ricci Middle School.

During her junior year, she created a poetry/writing initiative geared toward helping students who may have been struggling in English class to develop their creative writing skills outside of the classroom.

“The way the curriculum is structured with Common Core and thesis writing, it can be very formulaic, she said. It doesn’t always allow for students to bring in something they’re more emotionally connected to,” she said, noting that the program helped some of her peers improve their grades.

Barrow said his participation in mock trial stands out among his top experiences at NPHS and that working with mock trial adviser and social studies Chairwoman Crystal Bozigian, coupled with his time working under attorney Greg Shadone, inspired him to seek a future career in law.

Barrow also spent time advocating on behalf of his peers as the town’s councilman to the Rhode Island Student Advisory Council on Elementary and Secondary Education.

That experience, he said, allowed him to connect with students he might not have had the chance to meet otherwise.

“Even in my own building, I spent time speaking to people I never thought I would be friends with, working together to fix issues we were having,” he said. “The experience showed me that people need a voice.”

When coronavirus shut schools down, Shannon said senior year quickly turned into a “management game,” moving from structured days in the classroom to more independent online learning schedules.

As Shannon and Barrow adjusted to online learning, they buckled down to maintain their position at the top of their class, with GPAs of 4.39 and 4.35, respectively.

Shannon was accepted to Bryant University as an actuarial mathematics major. Her goal is to someday work as an actuary. “

It’s a field that doesn’t have a high number of women or minorities, so I definitely take pride in knowing that I’m pursuing a field that people who might not look like me dominate,” she said.

Shannon said her parents, Victor Sie Shannon and Regina Dermi Shannon, who moved to the U.S. from Liberia in 1999, played a significant role in her education, giving her “motivation to validate the sacrifices they made in giving us the opportunities they didn’t have.”

Barrow, who will attend Georgetown University, hopes to enter the law field.

“I fell in love early on with helping people, either through the public defender’s office or as a prosecutor,” he said, helping to be a voice for victims of crimes.

Both students said their teachers in the district have helped shape them into the young adults they’ve become and inspire them to work hard despite trying circumstances.

“It’s a powerful thing when a teacher takes a personal interest in a student’s education,” Shannon said.

As they prepare to embark on the next chapter of their lives, their advice to their peers is to continue to come together to navigate challenges and advocate for what they believe in.

“Our generation has seen a lot of change,” Shannon said. “When things change so frequently, you become adaptable. Life isn’t going to go exactly as we planned.”

Shannon said her advice to her peers remains the same as it did before the crisis: “Don’t stay stuck in high school – not just socially, but stuck in the past. This year was unfortunately not how we planned it, but it’s the reality we’re faced with. Being adaptable is super important, and to not remain stuck on what could have been.”

“There’s a lot riding on this generation,” Barrow said. “COVID-19 is just one of the problems we are going to inherit that will need to be fixed. This is really just the beginning for us as a generation.”