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18-year-old Savanna Cohen was surprised when she was named top student for the Matric Class of 2020 at Crawford College in Sandton …

Matric results have been released by the department and like so many, Cohen underwent a traumatic final year and is proud of what she has accomplished.

“I never expected to finish matric as the Dux scholar and valedictorian. I remember one of the teachers at my school messaging to tell me the day I received my results and I could not stop my hands from shaking and I could not stop crying,” said Cohen.

Savanna Cohen, Dux Scholar for 2020 at Crawford. Image Source: Supplied)

For Cohen, it was all about mindset

As a Type 1 diabetes patient, her risk was ever higher and the anxiety of possibly getting Covid-19 only worsened the situation explains Cohen as she wrote exams.

“It was nerve-wracking and I was always worried that I might have touched something with the virus or stood too close to someone who was infected but I tried to push those thoughts out of my mind during my examinations and testing.’’

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Cohen described how at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, she sat with her teachers and classmates speaking about how the lockdown would only be three weeks, and a year down the line we are very much still in it.

There were also teething problems as the school transitioned to online based learning

When stability began to set in Cohen realised she would need to bid farewell to her final year, at least the way it was “supposed to be.”

“One of the things I loved most about school was having passionate discussions with my classmates and teachers but online-learning restricted me from participating.”

Naturally, working from home also presented its own challenges. Cohen developed coping mechanisms to deal with the noise at home and found the will to work – she also discovered that she thrives under pressure.

“I maintained my focus by reminding myself how important the matric year is and that if I do well, I will open many doors for my future.”

(Image Source: Supplied)

Cohen adapted and made it work, realising that she was actually grasping concepts better.

“I was able to teach myself some difficult topics I would have otherwise been explained in class. I also began to understand concepts from school better as rather than simply copying something down from a board, I could take a step back and think about what was just taught.”

The school cancelled all social events due to the pandemic, the Matric Ball, and with Cohen being a part of the Student Executive body at her school (the highest leadership body who are elected by peers and teachers), she missed out on many team building events and gatherings.

Cohen plans to study medicine at the University of Cape Town and is waiting to hear back from universities in the US in the next month. She hopes to study neuroscience in the USA and obtain her PhD.

“I want to focus on neurological illnesses and disorders so that I can help people and have tangible impacts with my research.”

It was a matric year like no other, but the resilience of our youth has proved strong. Matric Class of 2020, we salute you!


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