When Jagraj “Jack” Atwal learned he would be Tokay High School’s valedictorian for the Class of 2020, he said he felt pretty good about it, but the elation didn’t last too long.
“I wasn’t in shock or surprise, because basically I had put myself on track to achieve this in the seventh grade,” he said. “This is what I’ve worked hard for, what I set out to do, and I’ve reached it. I’m proud of myself that I remained committed to doing it.”
Atwal said his reaction was not meant to come off as cocky, but similar to that of Kyle Martin’s response when he was named valedictorian for the Class of 2019 at The King’s Academy in West Palm Beach, Fla.
During his speech last year, Martin said he felt elation for about 15 seconds, and then came back down to earth on the 16th second.
Atwal will be leaving Tokay with a 4.8096 grade point average on Wednesday, and come fall, will be enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania in a dual nursing and health care management program to earn his degree.
The university was one of five the senior had applied to, along with Stanford, the University of California at Los Angeles, Berkeley, San Diego, Davis and Long Beach.
“I’m pretty excited to attend UPenn,” Atwal said. “It was my first choice for school, and it was the only one with the dual program I wanted to attend. If all goes well, this will open a lot of doors for me.”
Atwal said he hopes to become a nurse practitioner or physician assistant after college, and then move upward into the administrative side of the health care industry.
He said he has always had an interest in the medical industry, but helping his family take care of his grandparents as they became older made him realize that health care was his calling.
“My grandma had various medical conditions that required us to check her blood oxygen levels, and I check my grandpa’s blood pressure and blood sugar levels now. It just really got me interested in helping people and continuing to do that as a career choice.”
During his time at Tokay, Atwal was involved in a variety of extracurricular clubs and activities. He served as president and co-president of the Christian Club, and president of the Interact Club. He was also the public relations chair and STEAM Career Room chair for the NorCal Science & Technology Festival.
To prepare for a career in health care, Atwal said he met David Wolcott, Adventist Health Lodi Memorial president and chief executive officer, as well as two RNs, who gave him advice and direction for his future endeavors.
Atwal said his most memorable experience about his four years at Tokay was receiving a crisp $100 bill from golf coach Chris Zermeno for raising $1,000 his sophomore year for the team.
However, what he will miss most about the school is calculus with teacher Aggie Smith.
“She’s been my teacher for a couple years,” he said. “That class was pretty fun. I learned that math came easily to me, and you should be able to enjoy something that you can do well in.
“I’ll also miss hanging out with friends and doing whatever, though,” he added.
Atwal will receive his diploma during Tokay’s diploma procession on campus at 7:45 a.m. on May 27, and he will have a pre-recorded speech included in the school’s virtual graduation that night at 7 p.m.
The virtual graduation will be broadcast on the school’s YouTube Channel, and on the Lodi Unified School District’s Facebook page.