himani patel

Himani Patel

McGavock High School seniors participated in a drive-thru cap-and-gown distribution last week, and Saturday afternoon, the nearly 500 seniors took part in a drive-thru graduation at their school. 

There are plans for a potential virtual graduation or a district wide in-person graduation in the future, depending on COVID-19 state-guidelines. 

Both the school’s valedictorian and salutatorian were chosen, and each of the young women penned their speeches for this year’s class. Neither knows how nor when exactly they will share their thoughts to their student comrades.

However, it’s an astounding accomplishment to be the two top scholars this senior class at the second-largest high school in Tennessee. This week, valedictorian Himani Patel is spotlighted, and next week the light will be shown on salutatorian Natasha Hernandez.

Patel said her whole family is from India.

“I do feel accomplished,” she said. “Though I wasn’t really going for it, I guess I’ve made my family and friends proud. It sort-of came naturally.”

She was in the school’s academy of hospitality and finance. 

“I want to major in neuroscience, but as of yet I have not figured out my clear vision on this,” Himani said. “I want to minor in business.”

She plans to attend the University of Tennessee. 

While the academy track she completed in the past four years may not have given her the edge in science as she heads to college, she said banking gave her a good head on her shoulders for the future. 

She said it’s “kind of sad” the way the COVID-19 pandemic shut school down early and cancelled prom, senior walk and other end-of-year banquets and recognitions. 

“It wasn’t a proper goodbye,” she said. “The senior experience didn’t really happen. But, it was for a good reason.”

Patel was on the tennis team, an academy ambassador, on the student council and a member of Distributive Educations Clubs of America. 

She said her mentor is her sister, Henali. 

“She was my advisor,” she said. “She told me to participate and take advantage of opportunities.”

She hopes to get her bachelor’s degree and apply for medical school.

“I will figure it out,” she said. 

She noted her high school participation in extracurricular activities helped her grow as a person, because she was shy at first. 

Patel took three years in the Cambridge Track at McGavock, which is the highest level of academics available there.

Her speech hones in on taking things “step-by-step, one day at a time, until you make it through.”

Recommended for you