Barker is Central's top graduate

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By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

For Zoe Barker, being valedictorian began as a small goal—a bucket list achievement worth striving for—but one Zoe didn’t feel was real, given the intelligence among her “amazing peers.” Having accomplished the feat through a combination of determination, hard work, resilience and family support, Zoe exuded humility in victory, accepting the honor as Central Community School’s top student of the 2020 graduating class. 

There was another quality Zoe mentioned was helpful along the journey, and it also serves as a life lesson and message to future classes or students hoping to turn their small goals into reality. It was the ability to stay focused and to eschew the negative opinions others may form about you. It’s important to remain on task, to block out the doubt and doubters and keep the focus on yourself, close friends and family. 

It is family where Zoe found the greatest support, from her mother, sister and, most importantly, her father, who is also Zoe’s role model. He is a kind, compassionate and caring man who pushed Zoe to always do her best and always work hard. It’s that work ethic that Zoe cited as an important element in receiving the prestigious honor of valedictorian. 

Family was a constant theme running throughout Zoe’s answers, as was an attachment to the community—a community she will miss when she heads off to live in Indianola with her father to attend DMACC for nursing. 

Of the community, Zoe said, “It felt great being able to go to school and knowing I could talk to almost anyone comfortably. I will miss the tight-knit community and environment.” 

However, it wasn’t always easy for Zoe, who openly admitted struggling with time management. On the issue, she said, “When I entered high school, this was something that I had to learn, as I had not faced difficulties with time management as a child in elementary/middle school.” 

Any occasional procrastination came from Zoe’s desire to limit the amount of work she did at home because she valued family, and as she stated, wanted to “leave time for my personal life and the joys that come with it.” 

The struggle doesn’t appear to have been much of an issue, as Zoe had the highest GPA while also participating in several extracurricular activities, including volleyball, softball, track, large group speech and the musical her senior year. 

“I played volleyball and softball for four years, ran track for two and competed in large group speech for four as well,” she said. “While I am deeply saddened the musical never had a true showing, it was an amazing experience and one I would never take back.” 

One thing Zoe probably isn’t sad about is leaving behind math class, which she said “has always been the most difficult for me, and it’s usually somewhat boring as well.” 

Predictably, the class she liked the most was anatomy. “I am extremely interested in the human body, as my career choice probably gives away, and the class prepared me for college,” she said. 

All of it was part of the high school experience Zoe said was “fairly positive,” except for being unable to leave school for lunch. That’s something Zoe believes would increase the overall experience, make high school more enjoyable and provide a boost to the local economy. 

When it comes to COVID-19, Zoe admitted it was a struggle trying to keep up with classes, both high school and college, mostly because she does not enjoy doing all her work at home. There is also the issue of motivation and maintaining focus, but you don’t become valedictorian without having the ability to problem solve. While the pandemic has been an unwelcome distraction, Zoe said “it has forced me to learn how to prioritize schoolwork at home.” It’s also reaffirmed that she is not the “greatest introvert,” preferring to be out, among family and friends. 

In the end, Zoe wants future students to relish the moment and experiences because, while “it seems slow and uneventful, you will look back and realize how fast it actually went and all of the great times you’ll miss.”

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