Class of 2021 Profiles: Valedictorian Sarah Sharp

Class of 2021 Profiles: Valedictorian Sarah Sharp

Sitting in her room, completely still, Sarah Sharp once held her breath for two minutes and 15 seconds. But underwater, when she was working hard—executing a front layout say, or acting as the base for a lift—she could hold her breath for a full minute and change. Synchronized swimmers are some of the fittest athletes going.

“I did synchro swimming for 10 years,” Sharp says. “It’s a total team sport. You are in it together, synchronizing your movements. It’s such a rigorous sport. It’s really hard—but it’s supposed to look easy.”

Photo by Katie Clarke

It sounds a little bit like being a Valedictorian. It’s supposed to look easy, standing there in front of your classmates, speaking from the heart. But it’s a lot of work to look to the past, stay in the present and point to the future. And that is what Sharp will do when she gives the farewell address as part of the online graduation celebrations being held for the Class of 2021 on May 27. Although Encaenia will be held in person when that becomes possible again, for now, an online event will celebrate the accomplishments of students who completed their final year of studies entirely online.

“I want my speech to be for my classmates. It’s not about me. After this strange year I hope I can say something that, for a moment, will connect us all in our shared experience. Really, what I value so much from my time at King’s is how much I have learned from my peers. I am just astounded every day. There are so many caring and engaged people here. To be in that environment for four years is amazing.  That’s what I want to tell my peers. It will be a thank you. A proper thank you.”

Sharp came to King’s from Toronto four years ago because of the Foundation Year Program (FYP).

“I loved FYP. It was just a complete year, an odyssey. We were all on this journey together. There was so much camaraderie. The students, the tutorial leaders, the profs, it felt like we are all in this crazy learning thing together. And there was so much value placed on critical and creative thinking.”

Watch: Sharp’s May 27 Valedictory Address

Sharp followed FYP with the Contemporary Studies Program (CSP) and Classics.

She says she just loved being a student. She loved her courses. She even loved the homework! But don’t take that to mean her studies were her only focus. She also volunteered at Northwood, a continuing care facility for seniors. She got back into synchronized swimming, this time as a coach with the Atlantis Synchronized Swimming Club in Halifax.

“I started coaching in second year and it was so nice to be back in a team environment and to work with kids. They train around 10 hours a week. They are 11 and 12 years old and they are so fit! I love working with the girls.”

Sharp also worked with kids in another context, taking over as coordinator of the YouthNet tutoring program that pairs kids with King’s students for tutoring sessions. She is still with the non-profit organization and plans to work there after graduation.

For Sharp, YouthNet and coaching the young swimmers has made a world of difference.

“After the year we’ve had there is something really hopeful working with kids. I feel they are more unfazed by everything that’s been going on.”

Photo by Ruairi Smith

Oh yes, the “year.” One of Sharp’s most captivating traits is her ability to find the positive in any situation, including the pandemic. When she went back to Toronto in March of 2020, Sharp found living with her parents and sister as a whole family again was a gift that may not be repeated as life goes on. Then when she came back to Halifax last fall she found joy even with the campus closed.

“Online school is hard and it can be lonely. But it reminded us of how being with people is so valuable and how important it is to look out for one another. My social circles grew a lot tighter, so I feel like I got closer to my friends. And I was really immersed in all my classes. It felt like I had a more direct relationship with texts I was working with because it was just me and the book.”

When Sharp is near lemons, they just naturally turn into lemonade.

Even having to record her valediction in advance for an online graduation is not such a bad thing. Sharp says she is a “slow thinker”—she considers carefully what she is going to say and how she’ll say it. So getting a chance to record may actually help.

As she said, Sharp wants to say a proper thank you in her speech—to the people who have helped her, and those whom she has helped. But it won’t be a farewell speech she says. It can’t be.

“I don’t feel done with King’s. A chapter has been completed, sure. But it would be too hard to say goodbye. The thinking and learning that we did at King’s and the people I was close with—that will all stay with me. It will stay with me throughout my life.”

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