BEING A SENIOR DURING COVID-19
FEATURE: the class of 2021 weighs in on what it's like to be a senior during a pandemic
October 7, 2020
As members of the class of 2021 enter their “virtual classrooms,” its seniors are facing a new reality: COVID-19 threatens to steal their spotlight.
From missing out on attending sporting events to participating in shows to simply being overshadowed by a global pandemic, seniors are looking at an uncertain final year of high school.
For some seniors, that’s a huge challenge. For others, it’s less of a big deal than you might imagine.
“I’m concerned that I’m not going to have a graduation,” said Tori Schaub, a senior music major from New Castle. “I don’t want the same thing to happen as last year.””
One advantage this year’s seniors have over the Class of 2020 is that they aren’t being blindsided by COVID.
“I definitely would prefer the situation my class is in where we were kind of able to manage our expectations beforehand rather than having everything fall down around our ears,” said Sophia Curry, a Lincoln Park theatre major from Washington, via email.
However, Curry pointed out that “both situations are ridiculously far from ideal.” This year’s seniors, like last year’s, she said, faced “different brands of the same awfulness.”
One of the major concerns many seniors have is about graduation — especially after Lincoln Park and other schools held virtual ceremonies last spring.
“I’m concerned that I’m not going to have a graduation,” said Tori Schaub, a senior music major from New Castle. “I don’t want the same thing to happen as last year.”
That concern isn’t limited to Lincoln Park students.
“I am concerned that I won’t be able to have a real graduation because it’s very important to me that I get as close to a normal senior experience as I can,” said Megan Heckathorne, a senior at Cranberry High School in Butler County.
Unlike many schools in the area, Cranberry High School is having regular in-person classes.
However, Heckathorne added that public health concerns are more important than graduation.
“At the same time I don’t want anyone to get sick,” Heckathorne said. “So, if they have to do online grad, that would be OK!”
Even beyond graduation, seniors are wrestling with the reality of COVID affecting their post-high school plans.
Carly Kern, a senior at Mars High School, said she recently verbally committed to Baldwin Wallace. If things go as planned, she should be on campus in the fall of 2021 to study biology and physics.
However, Kern said, “If the pandemic continues, I’ll have to do school from home.”
Alex Haney, a senior from Pittsburgh who attends South Fayette High School, said he doesn’t think his college plans will change because of COVID — but his experience might.
“My plans after graduation are to go to a four-year college and play lacrosse, and upon completion of that I would like to go to Penn State Law school,” Haney said.
“My first couple years in college, if [coronavirus is] still a thing, those would definitely be affected. I can’t see myself changing my plans because of all this.”
Meanwhile, Hailey Loveless, 17, of New Castle, also doesn’t expect COVID to affect her future plans.
Loveless, a nursing major at Lawrence County Career Technical School, said, “My plans after graduation are going to Jameson School of nursing, so pretty much, my plans aren’t changing.”
While some college plans are unchanging, the traditional senior year has already met its downfall. Yet some still see the need to cherish every moment of their last year of high school — and say goodbye before it’s too late.
“Last year’s seniors didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to everyone in person,” said Megan Heckathorne. She said she’s grateful to at least know the potential circumstances beforehand.
“It just feels like every day now we’re kind of saying goodbye when we leave because now we know that [another lockdown/school cancellation] could kind of still happen.”
Some seniors, however, aren’t all that worried about things like graduation and college. One of them is Alek Greene, a writing and publishing major from New Castle.
“I couldn’t care less about having a graduation ceremony,” Greene said. “Honestly, people are dying.”
And some seniors, like Jack Miller from Riverside High School, admit that the pandemic hasn’t had any effect on the usual senior concerns.
Even without the COVID crisis, Miller admitted, “I still wouldn’t know what the heck I’m doing with my life.”