Valedictorian eager for last hurrah with fellow graduates

A senior year at Seneca reshaped by a pandemic nears its finale

Camryn Lubner is ready to blend her love of statstics and sports at the University of South Carolina, but first, she sends a message out to her fellow graduates (Krystal Nurse/The Sun)

This year’s Seneca High School valedictorian has taken the school year altered by the COVID-19 pandemic in stride.

With graduation set for July 16 at 7 p.m., Southampton resident Camryn Lubner remembered the year’s challenges for her and her classmates.

September saw the loss of Seneca student Joey Bakos, who died after a car accident, and students and staff bonded for support. In March, the pandemic that has now killed more than  12,000 New Jersey residents forced schools to close for the year, with all school-related trips and events canceled or postponed.

Even graduation.

“Being able to see us kind of adapt to these changes, figure things out and still be able to get through school work, and being able to still make it work even though it’s not your typical senior year, we’re all a big family,” Lubner expressed.

Lubner is graduating at the top of her Seneca class and will study statistics and management at the University of South Carolina’s honors college.

“They gave me an offer that I couldn’t turn down, and I originally applied there for the horseback riding team, but I ended up looking further into their program and they had a lot more than that,” she explained.

“It ended up being the right fit all around for academics and for activities and all else they had.”

Lubner spent most of her years at Seneca involved in varsity soccer and competitive horseback riding and giving back to the community in and outside of school.

Lubner nurtured a remarkable high school career as she took interest in her dream job — sports statistician — and donated her efforts to the Give Kids the World trip her junior year. Her interest in statistics was nurtured in a Seneca class, where her teacher explained the real-world applications of the data-driven field. She laughed sharing she cannot play basketball, but drew close to the analytics behind. She hopes to work with either a baseball or basketball team.

But she had her dislikes at school, too. Lubner once told her former Advanced Placement U.S. History II teacher James Donoghue (or J’Don as she referred to him) of her lack of interest in the subject, but called him an “incredible teacher..”

“I always disliked history and I made that very aware, and he (Donoghue) took that as a challenge to make me realize the importance of history,” she recalled. “Some teachers if they hear that you don’t like the subject, they’ll just move on and I was like, ‘I don’t think history is important to learn.'”

As she mulls the perfect outfit for the July night of graduation and fiddles with her valedictory speech, Lubner is excited to reunite with friends and teachers she has been unable since March to see in person.

“I don’t think you realize how many people you see and talk to in your grade until you’re not in school,” she admitted. “I’m excited for us to all be together again and it will mean a lot more after we were not together for three months, than it would have on a typical graduation day.”

Lubner echoed Seneca principles as she addressed future seniors and other students.

“Enjoy every single day of high school, even if it’s the days you’re dreading the most,” she noted. “People say you take it for granted, but especially now. I didn’t have those last three or four months, I’d do anything to have them back.”

Lubner has imagined herself looking out at her fellow graduates during graduation and telling them she is proud of what they’ve achieved despite challenges.

“In four years, I feel like we’ve changed so much,” she said. “I’m excited to see what they’re going to do, because they’re all very special people to me.”