051320_MNS_MtVernon_val_001 Eliza Bruno

Senior Eliza Bruno, Mount Vernon School’s valedictorian, stands by the school’s sign at its upper school campus entrance.

May 16 was going to be the date when Mount Vernon School in Sandy Springs held its class of 2020 graduation ceremony.

But those plans changed in mid-March when Mount Vernon and every other school in Georgia and across the country closed its campuses and shifted classes online in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

However, Eliza Bruno, the school’s valedictorian, said there was a silver lining to the cancellation of in-person events such as the prom or other spring traditions, though graduation will remain in person, just delayed to July 31 (or later).

“One positive about all of it is I have access to the internet. I have a small senior class, so we all stay connected on a group chat and we’ve had Zoom calls and stuff,” she said, adding she’s one of 81 seniors. “The first half of senior year is more stressful because everyone is worrying about colleges and standardized tests.

“Once you get to the second half, you get to celebrate what you’ve achieved and the people you’ve achieved that with for the past four years. The most disappointing thing is we can’t enjoy that together in person. But it’s nice we can still talk and all that stuff. But it’s not the same as seeing each other (in person).”

Bruno, who lives in Sandy Springs, has a 4.61 grade-point average and a 33 on the ACT. The 17-year-old will attend Georgia Tech in the fall, with plans to major in biomedical engineering.

“Truthfully, I am not sure if I’ll go to (graduate) school after undergrad,” she said. “But one thing I like about biomedical engineering is it’s so expansive and there’s so many different fields within it. I’m especially interested in stem-cell research. There’s just a lot of really cutting-edge technology that I think can really help people in the future, and I would like to be a part of that.”

Bruno is Mount Vernon’s Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) student, an honor given by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators to each school’s student whose standardized test score elevates him or her to the highest 10% of their senior class or has the highest score.

She invited Amy Choi, who taught Bruno in her ninth-grade humanities and 10th-grade Advanced Placement world history classes, to go with her to the regional STAR awards banquet in Midtown in February.

“Her maturity even as a ninth-grader and her thoughtfulness with her assignments, her thoughtfulness when she would speak in class and her thoughtfulness in conversations when I would talk to her outside of class” make her stand out, Choi said. “If I was in high school, she and I would have been friends. We would have gotten along well together.

“She doesn’t have a very outspoken sense of humor and would leave little comments on her assignments saying she really enjoyed this video or this book. She wasn’t outgoing enough to say it out loud but she would write little comments.”

Though the last two months have been tough, Bruno said she still has plenty of memorable moments from the past four years.

“My fondest memories from high school are truly all the times I’ve spent with people at the school, the people I’ve grown up around,” she said. “They’ve really been my support system for so long. That’s why this is so unfortunate, that I can’t see them right now. I’ve seen them for a long time. I go to a small school and I’ve seen all of them grow up. It’s nice to see what everyone has become. This is really a very fun part of high school.”

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