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Joppatowne’s Esther Adelola graduates after completing ‘the most challenging year in high school’

Ebunoluwa Adelola, Joppatowne High School, Class of 2020.
Ebunoluwa Adelola, Joppatowne High School, Class of 2020. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Ebunoluwa “Esther” Adelola has persevered through a number of challenges during her time at Joppatowne High School, such as making the transition from her former school to Joppatowne in the midst of her sophomore year, or completing rigorous coursework. But closing out senior year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic has made the 2019-2020 school year “probably the most challenging year in high school.”

Adelola, 18, ended her senior year like other Harford County Public Schools high school seniors who had their experiences cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. She could not complete her spring sports season as a discus and shotput thrower on the track-and-field team, attend prom or go on her senior trip.

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Her graduation was set up like other HCPS commencement ceremonies last week. Seniors could visit their schools with a few members of their family, walk across the stage and receive their diploma, then exit. The restrictions had been put in place to protect participants from the spread of COVID-19.

Adelola said that her last year was so challenging because of her coursework, which included multiple AP and honors classes. She also had to apply to college, as well as spend the final quarter learning from home after schools closed for in-person learning in mid-March.

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She also was not able to continue her work as a volunteer at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air because of the pandemic. She had been assisting nurses in the hospital’s orthopedic section, and plans to go to medical school and become a pediatrician.

She plans to attend Towson University in the fall and major in bioinformatics, a combination of biology and computer science, focusing on data analysis.

“I do love working with kids,” she said of her desire to become a pediatrician.

Adelola said taking high school classes online was “a bit hard” at first, “but at the end of the day, we had to do what we had to do.”

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“At the same time it’s a pathway to adulthood,” she said of the challenges. “We stop being kids, and you have to start thinking for yourself.”

She has learned through her senior year experiences that “you have to be thankful for what you have right now, just for being alive.”

“You have to be thankful, as well as appreciate the people [close to you], because you never know what might happen,” she said.

Adelola’s mother, Olubukola, said her family “could not be prouder” of her daughter and her accomplishments in high school, such as finishing with a 4.5 GPA and being accepted into the honors college at Towson.

“She has grown from being a little girl to a young adult in a short period of time,” Olubukoa Adelola said.

She said the entire family has dealt with the impact of the novel coronavirus, which she noted can affect anyone, regardless of “their status or their background.” Members of the Adelola family have had to remain home, and the pandemic has forced the cancellation of many of their plans.

“We just thank God for everything, pretty much ... just for life, for having each other,” she said. “Even though we can’t do what we planned, we still have hope.”

Sarah Paquin, a school counselor at Joppatowne, said she met Adelola when she transferred there in the midst of 10th grade. Adelola said she transferred from Franklin High School in Baltimore County, as her family moved to Joppa from Reisterstown.

“She transitioned beautifully,” Paquin said. “She’s very mature and well-liked by teachers and students — she fit right in.”

Paquin described Adelola as “one of our top students,” noting she took many AP and honors classes at Joppatowne, including four AP classes her senior year. Adelola also served as a student mentor, became a member of the National Honor Society and a Maryland Scholar, finished in the top 5 percent of her class and received a combined $783,400 in scholarship offers from 11 schools, according to Paquin.

“She is just motivated and an all-around good student,” said Paquin, who also praised Adelola’s “passion for helping people.”

Paquin has kept up with the senior class by email, phone calls and video chat sessions.

“When you talk to them, you can tell that they’re sad that this is the way that their high school experience is coming to an end, but they’re a resilient group of kids,” she said.

Paquin described the challenges related to coronavirus as “just a speed bump, a challenge that they overcame on the way to meeting the goals and expectations they set for themselves.”

She is in her fourth year at Joppatowne and noted that she has been with the Class of 2020 since their freshman year.

“This senior class, as whole, is motivated and driven,” Paquin said. “[You] can just tell they have big plans for themselves. They have been a fun class to watch mature over the years — they’ll be missed, for sure.”

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