Town Talk Features

Graduating During A Pandemic

From online learning and canceled traditions to unanswered questions about the fall, high school seniors are preparing to graduate in a climate of uncertainty. We checked in with three local students to get their insights on these unprecedented times.

anna jost | cor jesu academy

What was it like to learn you wouldn’t physically be returning to school this spring?
It was pretty unexpected for most of my class. Right before spring break, there was a lot of talk about the potential stay at home order. I remember being at lunch and one of my friends made a joke that it was the last time we’d all get to sit and eat together. That turned out to be true, and we were all taken by surprise. My teachers have done an incredible job adapting to online classes and keeping everyone engaged. My quality of education hasn’t changed, but I do miss the in-person aspects that make school fun.

How do you feel about prom and graduation ceremonies being postponed?
It was hard to come to terms with because those are occasions for my entire class to celebrate. It’s not so much about dressing up or walking across a stage. We want that time to recognize one another and how far we’ve come together.

Has Cor Jesu planned alternatives to these events?
The plan is to have a graduation and prom in August, which I appreciate. I don’t think the date matters. Plus, now I have time to find someone to go with! On our original prom night, the school turned on all the lights, and we got to drive through campus and talk to our teachers from our cars. I thought it was a really sweet gesture and a good way to prevent what could have been a sad day.

How have you been connecting with classmates?
A lot of FaceTime and Zoom calls. My friends and I even figured out how to watch a movie together; that was a good day. My senior class has a huge group chat, too. We can all talk and keep in touch. Little things like that help us stay connected even when we can’t be together in person.

What are your thoughts on starting college in the fall?
Next year, I’m going to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I think the transition from high school is intimidating for every student, every year. What makes 2020 extra challenging is that we don’t get the same closure that everyone else had before us. So much is up in the air, and it’s hard to move onto something new when you can’t say goodbye to where you are now. It’s like we have one foot in both worlds.

sebastian martin | de smet jesuit high school

How has online learning been?
I think it’s been pretty good for a lot of us. Even before COVID-19, De Smet used a lot of online resources, so I feel like we were more prepared. Teachers can decide how they want to handle their classes, and I think that’s a better alternative than forcing everyone to do the same thing. We also have collaboration days for students who feel like they are falling behind. It’s a way for teachers and students to meet in a one-on-one setting like how they used to after class.

What are your plans for college?
I’m attending the United States Naval Academy. I’m supposed to report in June, which is before most of my classmates are going anywhere. I don’t know if that date is going to hold, and I’m unsure of how to prepare or make travel plans right now. Times are definitely uncertain, but I think life often is. I plan to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I think that’s an important part of going into the military and of life in general. A bright side of this situation is that it has forced us to be proactive and adapt to situations we can’t control. We’ve learned to be more flexible and work to make our abnormal lives a little more normal.

What are your thoughts on potentially missing out on in-person events like graduation?
It’s definitely unfortunate, but it’s also interesting to see how different schools are handling those events. De Smet says they are going to give us an in-person prom and graduation later, but it’s a really hard decision to make. A lot of people getting together in one room is going to be a scary prospect for a decent number of people. It’s hard because no one knows what the situation is going to be. All we can do is keep moving forward and have a positive attitude.

How have you been keeping up with friends?
After classes, our teachers give us time to sit on the Zoom call and catch up with each other. De Smet has done a good job of making sure we aren’t feeling lonely and can connect with both peers and teachers. On a more personal note, my friends and I have been playing poker online. We recently had a virtual tournament.

grace farr | whitfield school

How has school been this spring?
Whitfield made the transition to distance learning in stages. After spring break, we were told we wouldn’t be returning to school until at least the end of April. At first, we were given assignments, and teachers prepared video lessons. If we didn’t understand something, we could video chat with them. After the stay at home order was extended, the school came up with a long-term solution and implemented live classes. It was nice to get to see my classmates and teachers. That made it a little less lonely and secluded. You realize that everyone is all in this together.

What are your thoughts on the pandemic?
I plan to study global health at Dartmouth College, so it’s been really interesting to read how COVID-19 has spread. It started in a small city in China, and now, it’s a global pandemic. It’s weird to think about how fast all of this happened. My friends and I talked about the virus before it hit the U.S., but we never thought it would impact our lives this much.

How has it been to stay at home?
It’s been nice to be with my family. I’m leaving for college in a few short months, and before this, I was always out with friends or making plans. But now, I just get to connect and spend time with them. That’s been a nice part of quarantine, but the uncertainty of the situation is really weird. I had plans with my friends for the summer, but we don’t know if we should keep or cancel them. It’s strange not being in control of anything.

Are you worried about missing any milestones?
Outside of prom and graduation, Whitfield has a lot of end of the year traditions for seniors. Since sixth grade, I’ve been looking forward to getting to do these things, and it was surreal to learn they wouldn’t happen. My class has decided to commemorate our graduation and preserve some of the traditions later when it’s safer. On the day of prom, a few of my friends and I went to the park in our dresses and suits. We followed social distancing guidelines, but it was nice to see people and celebrate. The school also has set up a curbside pickup for yearbooks, so I’m looking forward to seeing people even if it’s from our cars.

How are you connecting with classmates?
One of my friends set up a bi-weekly Zoom call for our entire grade. It lasts for hours, and people come and go. It’s really cool to catch up with everyone. A lot of my friends have had birthdays during this, and we’ve held drive-by parties in their neighborhoods. Small things like that help us stay sane.