Merritt Secondary School’s Class of 2022 selected its valedictorian after a year of flooding, fires, and displacement for the school and its student population. Graduating during an unprecedented year, both the valedictorian and her graduating class enjoyed the first relatively ‘normal’ graduation ceremony in three years.

While Vanessa Michel may not reside in the community, her Merritt roots run deep. The Class of 2022 valedictorian has attended MSS since her grade 8 year, when her mother began commuting to the Nicola Valley daily for work. Currently residing in Cache Creek, she and her mother drive to Merritt daily for school and work.

“I currently live in Cache Creek. In grade 8 I started going here because my mom was working here. I’ve been here right from grade 8,” said Michel.
The long daily commute may have been a deterrent for many, but the rodeo and ultimate frisbee competitor is used to travel for her many school and sporting engagements. She keeps busy with extracurricular activities, while also working hard to maintain high grades and good attendance at the school. Michel said her days have been busy during this grad season.

“I am currently working on quite a lot. I just finished my last high school rodeo, played on the Ultimate team here, and just wrapping up activities at the school.”

Her interest in sports and academics led Michel to her interest and passion for kinesiology, and the health and wellness of the human body during sports. She plans to attend the University of Calgary for her Bachelor of Science. Michel’s commitment to physical activity and public service remains a top priority for her as she moves forward.

Michel was chosen as valedictorian by her fellow students after they voted on her speech. She says while she didn’t originally plan to put her name forward for the position, she had a change of heart when the time came to submit speeches for consideration.

“All year, I didn’t think I wanted to, and then a few months ago I thought ‘why not?,’” said Michel, adding, “When it came time for writing the speech I was prepared.”

“It means a lot to be the first class since COVID. I can’t wait to stand in front of the arena and be that first grad class to return.”
While it may be the first graduation for MSS taking place both in person and at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, the experience will be new in another way for Michel, who is hopeful that it will be a positive one.

“I’ve never actually attended a graduation before, so this will be a very memorable one.”