With June fast approaching, the class of 2021 prepares to close the chapter of their high school experience. Only their chapter technically ended one year ago with the appearance of the Coronavirus. Seniors Rofeeah Ayeni, Mihail Karamanolev, and Kharissa Seepersaud provided some insight into their virtual senior year.
“It is a bit difficult to find motivation at times because every day feels like the same,” said Ayeni.
Despite this, Ayeni was able to eventually use the current schedule to stay ahead of her studies.
School life for seniors felt a bit different due to the absence of typical senior events.
“These [senior] events were a way for the senior class to create some of our final memories together and relax before entering college, and unfortunately we won’t have that opportunity,” said Seepersaud.
This sentiment is felt among many seniors. With school shutting down mid-way through junior year, it isn’t uncommon to hear a member of the Class of 2021 refer to this school year as “junior year part two.”
“It feels like some core experiences were taken from me,” Karamanolev said.
However, he cites much of his frustration as a result of the inaction of the country and government in the early days of Covid. Seniors ended up paying the price by missing long-awaited milestones and even the simpler moments.
“I wanted simple things like talking and laughing at the lunch table and learning new things about my classmates that I never knew for the past 4 years,” said Ayeni, “It is pretty sad that those good days won’t come to pass.”
Seepersaud opened up about missing out on the experience of opening a college decision letter with friends. She and her friends partook in the event over FaceTime, but it wasn’t the same.
“Opening acceptances and seeing my friends get accepted into their colleges would have been a magical moment full of joy,” Seepersaud said
Despite these grievances, this class of seniors hasn’t given up. All three interviewees expressed hope of in-person graduation, regardless of what it looks like. They’ve also expressed an understanding that the loss of this year falls on no ones’ shoulder.
“I understand the limitations that we have due to being remote. I am just looking forward to graduation,” said Ayeni.
Rather, they made do with what they had. The same can be said for the school’s administration, who also grieved the loss of the Class of 2021’s senior year. Principal Ojeda and Guidance Counselor Melissa Vargas shared their feelings on missing events, such as Prom, the Senior Barbeque, Le Show, and Karaoke Night.
“I would just love to see you guys all dressed up, coming in, and celebrating,” said Ojeda, “Being able to see it all come together is something that will be missed with those two events. “
The causal school spirit of asking a senior what college they’re attending wasn’t present this year. Vargas shared a similar sentiment.
“When you’re in the building there are students walking around with ukuleles, singing in the hallways. You don’t even have those tidbits of talent and humanity anymore,” said Vargas.
However, this year wasn’t solely shrouded in negatives. As a guidance counselor, Vargas enjoyed the ability to connect with the seniors in a new way: texting.
“There’s also this enduring, but informal, communication when you can fill in a thumbs up or an emoji,” Vargas said. “Those [are the] kind of things that add tone, the tone that I would have if I was in person.”
Through a GoogleVoice number, Vargas was able to make herself accessible to students in a new way. She would often receive calls and texts from students while she was out with her son or driving. A personal favorite of hers is to send out small, caring texts.
“Being able to do that with students reminds them that I’m here. I might not be there, but I’m here,” said Vargas.
Just like how Vargas was attentive to how seniors were handling the pandemic emotionally, Ojeda was doing everything in his power to make this year more manageable academically.
“There are certain things that have not been the same that have forced me to think differently, think outside of the box,” said Ojeda. “ I’m trying to have people send things home. I’ve voiced this to the teachers, club, and CTE programs.”
He, alongside the rest of the remote learning committee, created the special schedule to provide students a breather on Mondays and Fridays. He implemented an optional camera-on decision for students since he believes that students can be just as engaging with just a mic. This modified way of learning has shown its benefits.
“I look at the numbers and the passing rates and the graduation class is really strong. They haven’t really gained any NX codes,” said Ojeda.
Prior to spring break, the school reopened. Ojeda shared his hopes in students taking advantage of their CTE programs, potential school events, and possibly starting up on sports teams. Although seniors, such as Ayeni and Karamanolev, feel a bit iffy about it, only time will tell. Although the year is far from over, Ojeda leaves the Class of 2021 with some words of advice.
“Always remember to pay it forward [to others in need]. Always remember to take care of each other and move people along,” said Ojeda.