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“This is me being upset about missing milestones that I had been looking forward to. I don’t want to come off seeming like I don’t recognize that people are literally dying and suffering all over the world.” This sentiment shared by Richard Montgomery senior Ella Pickell via Instagram direct message is one that is held by seniors across the country. On social media and elsewhere, the class of 2020 has been getting hate for sharing their feelings on how quarantine is affecting them. This has caused seniors to keep their feelings of disappointment to themselves.
But senior year is a time that many students look forward to over the course of their 13 years of education. It is the end of an era; the closing of an important chapter of their lives. With this comes many festivities that make the end of the journey so special. Senior prom, graduation, senior banquets and even things that are not so glamorous make the year one for the books. The class of 2020, however, was not so lucky.
With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is at a standstill. Most states are on lockdown, Maryland being one of them. As all Montgomery County students and families know, Governor Larry Hogan and State Superintendent Karen Salmon say that schools will be shut down until at least May 15. As the return date has been pushed further and further back, students are beginning to lose hope that they will be going back to finish out the 2019-2020 school year.
In the meantime, online classes have become the norm, and many other activities have been taking place via Zoom or conference call as well. Now that it is May and the season of senior year festivities is officially here, the jokes about having virtual graduations, proms and graduation parties are seeming more realistic than ever.
“I didn’t work hard for 12 years to not be able to walk across the graduation stage. I still want one. It’s a tradition. It’s not fair to not give us one or not try to figure something out because of the current situation, even if it isn’t as soon as [the pandemic] ends. Something is better than nothing,” Kristen Frick, a senior at Northwest High School said via Instagram direct message, and many seniors would agree. Many seniors were looking forward to graduation because it is a once-in-a-lifetime event. They were looking forward to walking across the stage in front of their families and classmates and enjoying the satisfaction of all their achievements. But not everybody feels this way.
Senior Muyang Chunga of Clarksburg High School is one of the students that could not care less about the unfortunate events that have affected her senior experience. She attended her junior prom and did not want to go to another during her senior year, and as for graduation, she explained that she does not want one anymore as she’s already “over high school.” “I just want my cap and gown refund,” she said via text message.
Senior Erika Bonilla of Northwest High School agrees. She, too, was not looking forward to these events that many of her peers have spent so much time dreaming about. “I didn’t really want to attend either activity,” she said via Instagram direct message. “I don’t care if they happen or not.”
While not all seniors share the same feelings about potentially losing their end-of-year celebrations, what they do agree on is how they feel about their college decisions and first semesters of college being affected. Many students have had to make decisions about which college to attend without being able to visit first, and some orientations are happening virtually. “Now that college visits are online, you don’t really get the same experience as going in person,” senior Charles Perry said via Instagram direct message. The awe of becoming a new college student and committing to a school is diminished as the experience becomes more digital.
Though this quarantine puts a hindrance on a lot of events, including spring sports and senior nights, what all seniors wanted more than anything was to use their last moments as high school students to spend time with friends and get closure. Junior Abissi, a senior at Clarksburg High School said via text message, “I’m most upset about not spending enough time with friends because we are all about to go to college and some of us are going out of state.”
For the class of 2020, this experience puts into perspective how unpredictable life can be and how things can change in a heartbeat. These memories many of them anticipated making for years, may never get made. “For the longest time I didn’t enjoy being around people, so I would’ve been glad if I could stay at home. But now that it’s really taken away from me, I feel like I shouldn’t have taken those experiences for granted,” Bonilla said.