LHS top two excel beyond classroom

LHS top two excel beyond classroom

Lincoln High School Class of 2020 valedictorian Rida Jawed, left, and salutatorian Karan Shah.

LINCOLN – Lincoln High School’s Class of 2020 valedictorian and salutatorian have overcome challenges they never expected to face during their time in school, which came to an abrupt and unexpected end in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The way the year ended does little to diminish the accomplishments of valedictorian Rida Jawed and salutatorian Karan Shah, both well-rounded students who participated in a number of activities outside of the classroom.

Jawed, who is the daughter of Naseem and Uzma Jawed, moved to the U.S. from Pakistan with her family in 7th grade. By the following year, she was number one in her class.

“It was a goal I set for high school as well,” she said. She was second in her class freshman year and has remained number one ever since.

The achievement, she said, “has a lot to do with the people around me. My parents have helped me a ton and have made so many sacrifices.”

The pressure never came down to rank number one, though. “My dad said since the first day of freshman year: do not worry about your rank, but focus instead on your experiences,” she said.

Salutatorian Shah said that was how he approached high school.

He started off as 16th in his class freshman year, when he was intimidated by the competition among the top 10.

“After freshman year, I had a transformation mentally that all of the stress and feeling of intimidation was not worth it,” he said. “I began to approach school with the goal of just learning, understanding the concepts and applying them.”

By focusing on grasping content instead of his rank, he said he was able to jump to number five as a sophomore and second in his class junior and senior year.

“I learned that comparison isn’t healthy,” he said.

He said his father and mother, Mitesh and Manisha Shah, have been extremely supportive, and that they shared the same message as Jawed’s parents.

“I’d come home with a report card with straight As and they’d say: that’s great, but we really care about the person and character you are,” he said.

Before school closed, both students’ schedules were packed with extracurricular activities. They were both members of the National and Rhode Island Honor Societies and Lincoln’s STEM Academy.

Jawed, who received the 2019 Rensselaer Award for Mathematics and Science and the Harvard Prize Book Award, ran track, is a member of the Future Business Leaders of America, math team and science Olympiad team.

Shah serves as secretary of his class, a member of the Northeast Executive Board of the Young Jains of America, and is an AP scholar with distinction.

Jawed said some of her favorite high school memories include the FBLA fashion show and playing tennis, where she said she found “her community.”

She also interned in the marketing department of Dr. Daycare through the Prepare Rhode Island program, which she will continue this summer.

Shah said his most cherished memories of high school have involved the LHS variety show. After participating for four years, he was eager to emcee this year’s event.

“Being an emcee and balancing my coursework was probably the one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a student, but the reason why the show is so important to me and so many others is that we would never have met if we didn’t do the show. We really come together as a family and create strong bonds.”

Coronavirus canceled the show the weekend of the performance. “That was the biggest hit after waves of hits from graduation to prom to awards nights.”

“(COVID-19) got rid of some of the things I was looking forward to at the end of senior year,” Shah said of the time seniors typically sit back and reap the rewards of their hard work.

“It was a big challenge,” Jawed said. “The second half of senior year, the usual senior activities were canceled and replaced with more work. It was difficult at times to wake up and be motivated.”

Both students agreed that distance learning helped prepare them for unexpected challenges in the future. They also took time to thank their teachers for their dedication.

After her summer internship, Jawed will attend Northeastern University where she will study computer science and engineering, following a passion she has felt since she was young.

Her advice to her class upon graduation is that often, failure and perceived loss can teach us more about ourselves than success can.

In the fall, Shah plans to attend Boston University where he will major in biomedical engineering. He said that he hopes to enter cancer research, inspired by his mother’s battle with ovarian cancer over the last seven years.

“She’s what motivates me,” he said. “Every time I had a class that I didn’t want to do or stay up another hour to study I thought about her. That’s what pushes me to work hard.”

His message to his peers is to chase their dreams, no matter what adversity they face.

“Coronavirus is the perfect example. We just have to keep going, be resilient and work harder,” he said.