Less than two weeks after graduating from St. James High School, class of 2020 valedictorian Briar Lenz is already expressing aspirations to make an impact not only in his local community, but on an international level.

Lenz will attend the University of Minnesota-Duluth and major in environmental science.

With his degree, Lenz wants to focus his studies on the ecology in northern Minnesota, and how climate change and wildlife management are affecting those ecosystems near Lake Superior.

"I think environmental science is a big issue given what's going on right now," said Lenz. "There's a lot of debates up north. They're proposing to put a mine up there and it's a mine that's polluted other places before. It's really important economically and environmentally."

In his time at St. James High School, Lenz was in the band— and a satirical band—active in the school's lunch soccer league, Knowledge Bowl, Youth Council, and the Roundtable. 

Youth Council and the Roundtable help create relations between the school and the St. James community.

"Those are probably the most enriching activities because what we do is focus on student community-led solutions and community service. We talk about issues, not only in our community, but the state, the country, and the world." 

Both organizations were involved in the brainstorming behind a 5K for mental health prior to the coronavirus outbreak. The groups hope that the 5K can be held at a later date.

"I think in these last couple of years, I think I've found my passion for community service, activism, and helping the community."

Lenz says that he doesn't want this honor of being valedictorian to be all about him. Instead, he wants it to be a testament to the class of 2020, and how much they've gone through in the past three months.

"Being valedictorian gave me an opportunity to voice the class' struggles, tribulations, and aspirations and where we are going to go from here."

As he heads off to college and beyond, Lenz will take lessons from teachers and staff that have helped him along the way.

"We've had teachers that at our school that have really given me and other students the confidence to go out and achieve," said Lenz. "Through the feedback that they give, some teachers really encourage curiosity."