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Narragansett High School valedictorian Alison McCadden and salutatorian Ryan Lonkart will attend Northwestern University and Northeastern University, respectively, in the fall semester.

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – Circumstances can change in the blink of an eye, but a sudden storm hasn’t pushed two of Narragansett High School’s top Mariners off course.

The high school’s 2020 valedictorian, Alison McCadden, and salutatorian Ryan Lonkart are excited, focused and ready for the next chapter in their lives, which for each means attending college and pursuing larger career goals.

Like their senior classmates, they’ve weathered the COVID-19 classroom shutdown and completed their spring semester largely online.

“I have three older siblings and my brother Owen was valedictorian last year,” McCadden, 17, said. She watched with interest last year as Owen attended banquets and other senior year award functions.

“And then once the pandemic happened, none of those things happened for me,” she said. “So it was a very interesting spot to be in, but it’s kind of good in a way, because I’ve gotten to see past the recognition and praise and see the honor for what it is.”

She’ll study journalism in the fall at Northwestern University. She said she might also focus on political science.

“They’re planning on having students come back for in-person classes in the fall, but I think some of the classes will still be online,” she said.

McCadden said history, current events and politics interest her the most, so journalism is a good fit.

“I’ve always liked writing and history and all of that,” she said. AP History and Travel the World were two high school classes that helped give her a nudge in that direction, she said.

She had to do her spring semester learning in a home crowded with four family members.

“Sometimes all five of us were on Zoom calls at the same time,” she said. Her mom also teaches at the high school.  

McCadden played volleyball and lacrosse in high school, and as a sophomore she joined a state committee that developed resources for courses about genocide.

“When I first started I was the only student on the committee, it was mostly adults,” she said. It was outside her comfort zone, for a while.

“But by the end of it, I brought the committee back to NHS, and got a group of four or five classmates to write our own curriculum for middle-schoolers,” she said.

Ryan Lonkart, 18, is attending Northeastern University to study computer engineering, with the possibility of a double major or a minor in business along the way. He’ll have a “flex” option of attending in-person classes, or virtual ones online, he said.

“So far, it’s looking good,” he said. He’s interested in software development. Since elementary school he’s been interested in tech.

“I just found at that young age that it really makes sense. It’s intuitive,” he said.

Lonkart said the spring semester was different, but adapting was not difficult.

“The first couple of weeks were a little tough to figure out how things were going to work, but once we got going, it wasn’t that bad,” he said, adding that virtual learning gave him increased flexibility.

Lonkart took concert band and jazz band in school, and won the Ocean Science Bowl regional competition this year. He was scheduled to travel to Mississippi as part of the competition, but the pandemic put an end to the plans.

Lonkart also is a member of the National Honor Society, World Language Honor Society and he was on the Class Council.

Rather than name a specific influence or mentor from high school, Lonkart chose to see the best in all his teachers.

“Almost every teacher that I’ve had has helped me grow in one small way or another,” he said. “No one big memory, but a lot of small ones that will help along the way.”

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