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Watch: Student Learns She’s Valedictorian When Principal Visits Her at Drive-Thru

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A high school principal finds a creative way to congratulate their valedictorian in the midst of social distancing by delivering the news to her at work.


18-year old Kaitlyn Watson, a student at Grand Traverse Academy (GTA) in Traverse City, MI, had no idea she was in for a surprise when she went to work that day. Her high school had been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic and everyone was asked to practice social distancing. She was working at a Culver’s drive-thru when she saw a familiar face in the driver’s seat in front of her. Her high school principal was visiting her at work to deliver some big news.

“Hi Kaitlyn, so, I got you on camera, because to announce something to you today,” said secondary principal Michelle Floering with a big smile. “You are GTA’s 2020 class valedictorian!”

An extended school break and social distancing did not stop Michelle Floering, Secondary principal, from finding a way to give one of our seniors some exciting news! Congratulations, Kaitlyn!#lssucharterschools #MIcharters #UpLiftTODAY #TheFive

Posted by Grand Traverse Academy on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

CNN explains reports that “at Grand Traverse Academy, it’s a tradition to notify the valedictorian and salutatorian in person.” But since the school has been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the high school principal needed to get creative. Floering found that calling the two honorees was not enough, and wanted to notify them in person. Lucky for us, she caught Watson’s surprised reaction on camera, “I am?! Oh my gosh! Thank you so much!”

They’re both aware that they have to stay six feet apart, so they can’t hug each other, but Floering makes sure the senior knows she is celebrated, “I couldn’t wait to come and tell you!” The newly-announced valedictorian is beaming, “That makes me so happy, oh my gosh!”

The heart-warming video went viral on social media. CBS News fittingly called Watson, the “drive-thru valedictorian.” Traditionally, the valedictorian is the select student who delivers farewell remarks at the commencement ceremony of their graduating class. The students are usually chosen because of their high grade point average or other outstanding academic achievements.

Floering didn’t stop there, she also found a creative way to congratulate the Salutatorian of Grand Traverse Academy, Alyssa Tarkowski. She performed a water bottle flip with a bottle that had a note on the bottom that told Tarkowski she was “GTA 2020 Salutatorian.”

Governor Whitmer extended the closure of all K-12 school buildings, but an update from the school states that they, “expect school to be back in session on Monday, April 13.” That means that if all goes well, Kaitlyn Watson will be able to deliver her graduation speech to her classmates in person.

Congratulations, Kaitlyn Watson and Alyssa Tarkowski!