Friends end their high school journey at the top — together


Since they met in 3rd grade Monica Valladares and Aly Nunez have been inseparable. Now, they will take the stage together as co-valedictorians. 

Valladares and Nunez have been a dynamic duo ever since they met.

“Me and Ally have always been close, everyone knows we come together all the time, we’ve always been by each other’s side, we really get each other ever since the 3rd grade,” Valladares said.

Valladares and Nunez provided motivation for each other ever since the third grade.

“Monica and I have known each other since the third grade when we both went to a new elementary school to be in the honors program. Ever since then, we’ve shared an ambition for school that has allowed us to constantly push each other to be better and stay on top of our grades,” Nunez said. “I think having someone who is equally motivated with similar goals has benefited us both in being where we are today.

“We have always been there for each other, we pushed each other, supported each other and accomplished this together.” 

Their bond makes the accomplishment even more special.

“Honestly it’s really fulfilling to see all my hard work pay off, especially sharing it with my best friend. It’s kind of surreal because it’s been one of our goals since we were little, and we were always there for each other throughout school,” Valladares said.

Valladares is going to the University of Pennsylvania.

“[I am going] to study cognitive science as of right now. I’m not 100% sure on that major,” she said.

Nunez is going to Loyola University in Chicago.

“Right now I’m majoring in neuroscience with the focus on cognitive and behavioral science,” she said.

While keeping their academics up, the girls both participated in a lot of activities, including playing in the orchestra together.

“I’m in National Honors Society, freshmen mentors, I’m in Spanish Club. I did Quiz Bowl, and orchestra,” Nunez said.

Valladares also has an impressive list of accomplishments.

“I was a soccer captain, I was on the tennis team for two years, I did swimming my freshman year, I am a freshman mentor, Spanish Club, Quiz Bowl, and Student Government historian,” Valladares said. “Class secretary my junior year, I also volunteer for the Urban League of Northwest Indiana.”

Valladares admits she is a little nervous about giving her speech at graduation.

“Honestly I’ve never done public speaking before so I’m not 100% confident, but I’m sure my speech captives everything about my story and expresses it to the graduating class,” she said. “I’m ready to get there and share what I have to say to the graduates. I’ve been practicing a lot so it sounds good and I execute the way I want to.”

Nunez isn’t too worried about speaking in front of her classmates at graduation.

“I practiced it a lot and I have known these people for a long time so I won’t be that nervous talking in front of them but it’s definitely nerve wracking,” she said.

Nunez wants to keep her speech short and sweet.

“I want to focus it more on a message I want to say to the entire class. I won’t say too much, but I just want the class to remember something specific like some advice to take with them in college and stuff,” Nunez said.

On her journey throughout school, Nunez at times struggled to stay motivated.

“The biggest challenge is the loss of motivation at times, especially last year and a little bit this year. I feel like I worked hard but I also worked too hard,” she said. “That causes me to want to give up at some point and to just think of If I’m working towards really worth it or not but I’m glad that I got through that.”

Valladares has learned to balance her academics and social life.

“It was a struggle at first because I had to say no to a lot of events or go to things my friends invited me to, yes it was lonely at times but at the same time I knew it was helping fulfill my own goals,” she said. “So at the end of the day it was worth it, but when I have free time I usually balance it pretty well.”

Nunez believes setting goals is important as you work toward success.

To be organized and clear about your goals. Making a realistic, attainable plan makes school less overwhelming. I would also say to never overwork yourself and make sure your mental health is your top priority, keeping up with your academics will only be harder if you’ve burnt yourself out,” she said.

Valladares believes staying on task is important to everyday success.

Set daily goals for yourself, get a little done each day and don’t wait until the last minute. That’s something that has helped me a lot because right away it gives you free time and you don’t have to worry about the assignments not being done, if you procrastinate it will build up stress,” she said.

Ultimately, the two are happy to be sharing the stage together at graduation.

I think there was some competition freshman year because there were multiple people who were ranked first, but since last year when Monica and I found out we were the only ones ranked first there wasn’t really competition because we knew we had both worked to be valedictorian and were fine with sharing the title,” Nunez said. 

Valladares and Nunez have always wanted to be co-valedictorians.

“Never the case of competition, we always really decided it would be us two together,” Valladares said, “Even when there was an opportunity for one of us to take another class or something, we didn’t do it because we wanted to be there together.”