COVID-19 is shutting down everything. First, pro sports were canceled, followed by our own CHSAA activities. Then the school closed its doors and we moved to online classes. Now, as of yesterday, everyone but the most necessary workers have been ordered to stay home. Life as we know it is changing rapidly, and it’s completely unclear when the current crisis will be over.
The Frederick Class of 2020 worries that we will run out of time.
What We Might Miss
Audrey Olson started our interview with a sigh. “I was really looking forward to senior prom, walking around our elementary and middle schools in our caps and gowns, and, of course, graduation,” she told me. In my interviews with two dozen seniors this week, all of them expressed concern that we would not get a graduation ceremony. More than grades slipping during our distance learning, more than missing out on senior prom, more than concern over the sudden change in our AP tests, graduation is foremost on our minds.
And why? We’ve spent thirteen years chasing the dream of putting on the cap and gown and walking across the platform, with our family and a full stadium of clapping people, hearing on name called in recognition that we made it. That all the successes and failures, all the sleepless nights and nail-biting tests, all the hours spent behind a desk or a jersey or a uniform led us to the single most important moment of our young adult lives.
There is a tremendous fear that we will miss that moment.
More than the fear of missing larger events like prom and graduation, seniors are mostly missing each other. Nick Formby said, “The hardest thing is not being able to see my friends every day. Sure, we have FaceTime and other ways to connect, but it’s just not the same.”
While every student is surely missing their friends, Lily Chesler really pinpointed why this lack of connection is especially painful for the seniors: “I was really looking forward to being with my best friends one last time. Throughout part of middle school and through all of high school, my group of friends and I have grown so close. Junior prom, homecoming, football games–all of it was spent with them, so it’s hard to see those last few moments slip away.”
The Senior Fear
Worse, we seniors feel like we are not getting answers. While the district works to organize online classes and teachers take this time to restructure their curriculum, all Dr. Haddad and Mr. Young have told us is that it’s “too early to make decisions” on canceling our prom (which is the day after the last day of the current school closure) and graduation.
This is fine–I believe Mr. Young when he told the Scout that “everyone is working to minimize the impact of this closure to seniors.” The issue that the seniors I talked to have is that we don’t what will happen if prom is canceled–will it be rescheduled, or will we just lose it?
This same issue looms over graduation–if everything doesn’t go as planned, what will happen on May 23? Will we all assemble on the football field on another day? Will our robes be mailed to us for an online graduation like the seniors at the University of Colorado will get? Or will we pull up to the school, lower our car window, and have our diplomas handed to us like the current food distribution at Frederick?
It’s not that we seniors don’t know what will happen that is worrying us, it’s that without knowing what Plan B is, our minds are coming up with truly heartbreaking alternatives.
Right now, every senior is hoping that we have a ceremony. Audrey mentioned that “it would be awesome if the district could do something to help us have a graduation ceremony of some sort, even if it needs to be a limited amount of people.” Brandon Hornby told us, “I hope that the school district will consider rescheduling prom and other activities to a further date so that we will able to enjoy our final moments as seniors.”
The Future Freaks Us Out
Our lives after graduation, ceremony or none, are also encountering issues due to COVID-19. Most colleges have switched to online orientation and virtual campus tours, making it hard to decide where to go. Nick told us, “I got an email from my college saying that a lot of people have rescinded their applications. It’s crazy to think that this is affecting their decision so much.”
I’ve also personally been affected in this way. I hope to play soccer in college, and the recruiting process is much more difficult now that the pandemic has prevented large gatherings and encouraged travel restrictions. Soccer ID camps are being postponed, preventing me from having the opportunity to be seen by college coaches. I will also have to resort to a virtual tour of an out-of-state school, making the decisions harder without being able to see my potential “new home” in person.
While the college process is unfolding haphazardly for most seniors, saving up for college is also becoming trickier for many students, with many seniors being laid off from their jobs. Audrey’s job is closed as of right now. She told me, “There aren’t many resources where I can go to make money, which stinks, because I still have a lot of things that I have to pay for.” Once fired, it’s also very hard to find other work. “It has been extremely stressful trying to find a place that is willing to hire an 18-year-old in this time of crisis,” Brandon told us.
On the other hand, Lily’s bank account is thriving with her job at Ziggi’s Coffee: “This time off from school has helped me get more hours and more training to be promoted.” Ziggi’s is staying open, as it has been declared an “essential business.” Seniors I spoke to who also worked in grocery stores or in healthcare have also seen a huge increase in hours, as essential stores need more delivery drivers than ever before.
The Silver Lining
While all the seniors I spoke to share intense stress around this semester, all of them acknowledged that they understand and agree with the recent closings and limitations. “With everything shutting down and hopefully the stop of most human interaction, I believe having no school is paying a small price to get ahead of something that could be much worse if we were still going every day,” Lily claimed. Another senior said that he has older family members who missed their graduation to go to war in Vietnam and that our current situation could be much worse.
Some seniors are even trying to make the best of a bad situation. “A silver lining that I see right now is getting to spend more time with my parents before leaving for college,” Brandon told us. Nick said, “This time has taught me to never ever take my friends for granted and has shown me how fast something can be taken away.” Audrey added, “It has taught me to not take any moment for granted. Now that these last high school milestones may be taken away, it makes me regret complaining about school for so long. All I want to do now is go back.”
There is no end to this crisis in sight and some of us in the Class of 2020 may lose a lot. Our jobs. Our prom. Our graduation. An easy transition to college. Possibly even someone close to us. But we will endure. We have encountered many obstacles on our journey to get this far–these closures are simply one more obstacle to overcome. As Audrey said at the end of our interview, “Your senior year is special. You try and soak up every moment that you have left and cherish the big milestones.” We can still make it special. Seniors, talk to your friends every day. Keep working out or drawing or whatever would do to fill your after school time. Don’t think about what you might lose but how you might come out of this better.
Just like every other obstacle, we can overcome this. Just because the world is shut down doesn’t mean we should shut down with it.