Imagine Prep salutatorian

Aaliyah Clayton is the salutatorian for Imagine Prep’s Class of 2020.

COOLIDGE — Less than midway through, 2020 has already become a historic year.

But beyond a pandemic that in under a month transformed education by forcing districts to take learning to an online platform and brought extracurricular activities to a screeching halt, her senior year at Imagine Prep Coolidge is one that Aaliyah Clayton will remember for an entirely different reason.

With a grade point average above a 4.0, Clayton is the first black female student at the charter school to be named salutatorian.

“I think being the first black girl at my school to even be salutatorian is going to stay with me,” she said. “It makes me feel like I can accomplish whatever I want.”

And Clayton has aspirations to accomplish big things. She plans on attending the University of Arizona in the fall, where she will study Psychology and minor in business. Her dream is to one day open her own office as a psychologist, specialized in working with children.

Clayton, 18, said she’s always felt a drive to be successful and early on her in high school career realized that having good grades was going to be her only way to guarantee a shot at college.

“I feel proud of myself, and I feel like I can let other African-Americans know that they can do it too,” she said.

During her time at Imagine Prep, Clayton participated in athletics through Softball. She was also a member of the cheer team both her junior and senior year, and served as co-captain for her senior year.

Cheer, she said, was a great outlet for her during the times when school could be particularly challenging.

But although — like any other teenager — she experience some challenging moments during high school, through it all, Clayton said the thing she will always appreciate will be the support she found amidst Imagine Prep teachers, staff and fellow classmates.

“Everything all of them have done for me I really appreciate,” she said. “It’s made me who I am today and it’s gotten me where I am today.”

Despite having many of the experiences of their of senior year, like high graduation, revamped or canceled to follow social distancing guidelines, Clayton said she believes that the experience will likely make the Class of 2020 much stronger.

“A lot of things are going to be thrown at us (in life) and I feel like we should just prepare for that,” she said. “I feel like this experience is only going to make us stronger.”