Perquimans High School’s valedictorian is Claribel Ordaz-Rios and the salutatorian is Allison Copeland, both of whom will be giving speeches at the Class of 2020 commencement.

Ordaz-Rios is a top student, president of the school’s BETA Club, active in many clubs and very involved in athletics as a varsity soccer player. She will be a first generation college student when she starts classes at UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall where she plans to study business administration and perhaps pursue a law degree.

Daughter of immigrants seeking a better life, trying times shaped Ordaz-Rios, made her stronger.

“The best that I could do was be the best version of myself and do everything to break out of the cycle that I was in because I realized that I didn’t want my siblings or anyone else to be placed in that situation,” said Ordaz-Rios said in an interview when she was named Perquimans Weekly’s Student of the Month. “Today after all the experiences that I have been through, I have been shaped into a more kind, respectful, and comprehensive person that tries to perceive everyone else’s perspectives.”

Working hard, striving – that’s what makes this Pirates’ senior special.

“Personally, for me, I believe that Perquimans County has several opportunities if you can learn to seek them and if you put forth your effort to do the most that you can,” she said. “I know that my success didn’t come overnight, I had to work for everything that I am now. This nation does indeed provide to those who truly wish to learn and advance in their life and build a better future for their loved ones.”

Copeland served as senior class president, Interact Club president, a Fellowship of Christian Athletes student leader, and a varsity volleyball and softball captain. She will be attending NC State University where she plans to study biology.

“I received a quality education at Perquimans County High School,” Copeland said.

Copeland was dual enrolled, meaning she took some classes through College of the Albemarle her junior and senior years and graduated with an Associates of Arts Degree.

“It was an awesome opportunity because we didn’t have as many AP level courses while I was there,” she said.

COVID-19 did not rob Copeland of her senior year.

“I missed senior night for softball, valuable time with my friends, final pep rallies, the senior cook out, walking the halls of my school one last week time, and a lot more,” she said. “But I can’t say that it robbed me completely. I still have a lot of great memories of my senior year before and after COVID! Also, being able to spend more time with my family was really nice.”

Copeland shares some advice for new students about to enter the hallowed halls at Perquimans County High School.

“I’d say to new students, take advantage of every opportunity to learn something new,” she said. “Whether that be in the classroom or outside of school entirely! The experiences you have in high school are the beginning of the rest of your life. If you are able to find something you are passionate about, pursue it!!! It will make deciding where you want to go to college and what you want to do with that short four years much easier.”

Staff writer Miles Layton can be reached at mlayton@ncweeklies.com