Seniors Speak: Finishing high school in a pandemic

Two seniors describe their senior year in remote learning

June 4, 2021

The class of 2021 has undergone their junior and senior years of high school amidst a pandemic, and as such has bore witness to the cancellation of in-person instruction and faced the uncertainty of not knowing whether they would be able to experience in-person graduation. The Crusader provided a platform for seniors to write a letter expressing their feelings on being a senior student during distance learning, as well as how they feel about graduating amidst the pandemic. 

Helaina Sako

Senior Helaina Sako. Sako wrote her letter expressing the difficulties she experienced with keeping her hope alive during quarantine. (Provided by Helaina Sako)

Like many of us, I didn’t mind a little extended spring break last year, but little did I know that was the last time I saw 90 percent of my friends and teachers. I didn’t get to say goodbye properly either or mindlessly give them a quick hug to remember me by. Admittedly, when this pandemic began, I did not take it seriously and I had to go through all of the stages of grief before realizing my senior year would be “unique.” While at home, the only thing [that] I could do to connect with the world was to observe it from my house through screens, and it was depressing. 

Although I had been through online school before, it was never anything like this. When I had been on online school before, there was never the elephant in the room of the looming fear of a deadly disease. As much as I felt eager to follow COVID-19 guidelines so that we could end the pandemic together, I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I could feel the growing demoralization creep all over me as my parents lost their jobs, I missed watching my younger cousins grow up and not recognize me on FaceTime, and people I knew died alone, without funerals. 

I saw people and things that I thought were invincible break down. My embers of hope were quietly put out despite being a high-performing student historically and it started to feel like all my grades didn’t mean anything. My injured spirit was, in context, a small loss compared to the people’s whose lowest moment was losing a loved one to the pandemic. However, during quarantine and all the tragedies contained within it, we started to see the best in people. Personally, I’ve grown in quarantine and I realized that I don’t want to live in a world where people senselessly struggle out of their control and that has fueled me to help my community with the urgency that I didn’t feel before. 

I can’t deny that I am crushed that I didn’t get to experience my senior year normally. But I also can’t deny that I’m grateful to take advantage of my privilege that allowed me to stay home and keep my family and myself safe. I’m vaccinated now as many of us are and I hope that going forward, I can phase into post-pandemic life as well as move onto university to begin my next chapter. 

 

Joseantonio Soto 

Senior Joseantonio Soto. Soto wrote his letter expressing his newfound desire to treasure the little thing in life. (Provided by Joseantonio Soto)

I remember my last day in school physically, or at least I think I do. It was the Friday before spring break. I was walking back from my last class of the day and had heard that our school was closing down; I felt excited and hopeful. A friend joined me while I walked and I asked him for his opinion. He had wished that the pandemic didn’t happen because, at the time, he believed that it wasn’t a very serious thing and wouldn’t last too long. Another friend joined us and I asked for his opinion and he didn’t really care, but he said it would be nice to get some extra days away from school. None of us thought of the COVID-19 pandemic in a larger aspect beyond the initial step of being away from school. We mostly made jokes and it seemed that we would all see each other the next day. I have not seen any of them in over a year. 

Finishing the last months of junior year was a real test to all of us, seniors. It was interesting to see how the teachers would adapt the teaching style in a way for students to continue to learn. Each of the teacher’s styles was different but, still, I was able to complete my work and take my Advanced Placement (AP) tests and pass them, despite the change. Whether it would be meetings on Google Meets or Zoom, doing things electronically felt different. We had to adapt so quickly in such little time and not everyone did it well, but I would say I did. I had felt that everyone was learning together, everyone was on square one; not behind or ahead. We all went at the same pace when it came to understanding how we would handle this new way of learning. Sometimes, I did have some problems when it came to learning and how specific teachers would want us to do assignments. Spending all day at the computer just made me want to get away from it, and my source of comfort turned into work. 

I would say that learning online is not as effective in some cases, but I would say that the information is more processable due to there being less of it. Being online has allowed me to have less work and essentially more freedom, but I don’t learn as much as I need to when it comes to those AP tests. This year, I have not had as many tests or homework assignments which were good at first. However, I feel that assignments would have helped me learn more and truly understand what I am being taught. Also, being at home has made me less focused due to the many things that distract me. I usually did homework at home, but now we’re doing everything at home. Every day felt the same; I couldn’t tell which day of the week it was because time flew by so fast with everything still in place, every day the same as the last…was I even going forward? 

I make my day the best I can and try not to waste it… I am grateful for how lucky and healthy I am.”

— Senior Joseantonio Soto

The way I’ve moved forward is to try not to see every day as the same, but to enjoy the little differences that make each day unique and special. Whether it be a day in which there is no class, no homework, or I’m having my favorite food for dinner, I think that the little things are what make those days count. I make my day the best I can and try not to waste it because I know there are people who have it worse than me and I am grateful for how lucky and healthy I am. I will wait as long as it needs to be in order for the world to get back to “normal,” and if it means counting down to see my friends again, I’ll wait for tomorrow.

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Seniors Speak: Finishing high school in a pandemic