Michelle Arzate

Michelle Arzate is the Class of 2021 valedictorian at Lourdes Catholic High School.

After attending Lourdes Catholic School throughout her entire academic career thus far, Nogales native Michelle Arzate wrapped up her last year of high school with the title of valedictorian.

Although the greater part of her last two years at LCS were interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, Arzate noted that one of the aspects she cherished the most about her time there was the close-knit community that she was able to be a part of from her first to last days at the school.

“It’s a family environment and it’s something that I really appreciate because I got to know everyone as they came in,” the 18-year-old said. “I do think that seeing the same people your whole life in every classroom, you really get together, you really understand each other and you get to help each other.”

Arzate said that being named valedictorian didn’t come as much of a surprise to her, considering she made a big effort to maintain her 4.0 grade point average throughout her four years of high school.

She added that her older sister’s example during her own time at Lourdes was her biggest motivation to reach to top of her class, as she admired the work and path that her sister had taken.

In addition to her classwork, Arzate was involved in an array of extracurriculars at Lourdes, which included being on the basketball and volleyball teams, the Business Club, National Honor Society, Kino Teens, Environmental Council, Student Council, and multiple programs with the Mariposa Community Health Center.

“Because it’s a very small school, you have the opportunity to participate in everything,” she said.

Still, while academics – particularly math classes such as calculus – came relatively easy to her, Arzate said her extracurricular commitments sometimes felt like the bigger loads in her effort to be a well-rounded student.

It was during those times when she found help and support from her mother, who taught her the value of time management and always reassured her that things would turn out fine, and theology teacher Teresita Scully, who lent a hand with both personal and academic matters.

Arzate added that it was also a huge help to be able to work as a team with her best friend and class salutatorian, Jennifer Maldonado.

“We kind of just sat down, said we’re not going to stress, we’re going to make it together and take our time,” she said of her teamwork with Maldonado. “We really helped each other out, worked together instead of having competition between us.”

Headed for UA

She noted that there were a few aspects of her senior year that she was looking forward to, but missed out on due to the distance learning that was brought upon by the pandemic. Those activities included attending the traditional prom night, having lunch outside one Friday every month and other special activities to commemorate the graduates’ accomplishments.

Luckily, there were other activities before the pandemic that she still holds close to her heart.

“Something I really enjoyed is that this school is not only about academics. It’s a lot about taking care of nature and the environment,” she said, describing the fun she had in working in the school garden with her classmates.

Looking forward, Arzate is preparing to attend the University of Arizona, where she plans to study architecture. She said she decided on that major due to her interests in mathematics and design.

She said she also looks forward to trying out new things outside of school.

“I was always like school, school, school,” she said of her high school years. “And now that COVID started and everything, I kind of realized that I have to go out more, I have to have fun and just meet new people.”

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