As graduation day approaches, Mt. Ararat High School seniors reflect on their academic careers, life challenges and rewarding class ranks.

Valedictorian Piper Dedek of Topsham said she is grateful to be recognized for her hard work but feels like naming one student as valedictorian isn’t fair because so many had to overcome the trying times of COVID-19.

Piper Dedek, Mt. Ararat High School valedictorian. Teri Schultz photo

“Sophomore year was hard; a lot of it was still online. It was very different from the kind of work we could do in person,” Dedek said. “Overall, we were able to do it, but this year is really the only normal year we had, and our class made the best of it. We still had our high school experience.”

Ranked third in her class, Synthia Ladner of Bowdoin agreed COVID tarnished part of her high school experience.

“It felt very disconnected, and as both an individual and a class, we missed out on many opportunities that would normally be available,” she said.

Both students found the pandemic challenging, but for Ladner, finances and time management were a struggle more than anything. Ladner worked weekends and some school nights as a pharmacy technician to pay for essentials but still carved out time for after-school clubs and homework.


“I would say it’s been crucial for me to have a job during high school, both so I can afford things such as college and to help with food and bills when times were a bit tougher,” Ladner said. “Having an income also allowed me to be able to purchase my own car so I could participate in more school events, work more hours and have a more vibrant social life. It is quite difficult to manage school activities, studies and employment on top of just being a teenager who wants to have fun.”

Synthia Ladner is ranked third in the class. Synthia Ladner photo


Dedek said she is nervous to give her speech at graduation but wants to make it “entertaining” and for it to carry some weight with her peers as they say goodbye to Mt. Ararat.

Ladner encourages her peers to make time for self-care because the “stress and burnout aren’t worth it.”

“Take a break from time to time. Life can get busy, grueling and to the forefront of your mind, but no matter how hard it is to do, you have to take a step back and just chill out sometimes,” she said.


Dedek will major in health equity and minor in German at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. Drawn to the medical field, she said she will focus on health equity rather than bio and chem because “it’s important to learn about these areas of health before medical school,” she said.

Ladner plans on “continuing my career as a pharmacy technician, and then this fall, I will attend the University of Pennsylvania for biochemistry.”

The Mt. Ararat High School graduation will be held at noon Saturday, June 11, at 68 Eagles Way, Topsham.

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