Seniors Make History Amid the Pandemic
We are living in a time when it seems nothing is normal or familiar. We can’t sit down in our favorite restaurants to have our favorite meal. Individuals are worried to travel to the grocery stores without a bottle of hand sanitizer – if they’re lucky enough to have one – and a homemade mask to try to keep germs from traveling among the community. Those who are still working are terrified to bring the virus home to their families, while many others are struggling to support their families due to loss of employment. Parents and guardians have suddenly become homeschool teachers.
Seniors are also being affected by the Coronavirus. Schools throughout the country have closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, leaving several students forced to wonder how they will receive their diplomas. Tyler County Schools have decided to host a virtual graduation.
This virtual graduation is reportedly going to look identical to what it would look like if it were happening in person. The Class President and Valedictorian will still have the chance to address their class. However, the graduation will be recorded while maintaining a safe social distance.
Superintendent Highley reported on May 9, seniors and their families are going to come to the highschool. Each student, along with four of their family members, will be allowed in the school at a time. The student will walk across the stage to receive their diploma with their families watching. The whole process will be filmed and broadcasted over social media sites on the original graduation date of May 21.
Highley reported he and the administration felt it was better to hold a virtual graduation rather than delaying it. “Honestly in these times, you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. It’s our feeling as an administrative staff that we could wait until the end of July or August and still have this social distancing in place…then we’re no further,” said Highley. Social distancing isn’t the only factor they considered. He reported they were also thinking of the individuals who are going directly into the workforce who may not be able to take a day off to attend graduation at a later date. “We have kids that are going into the military. We have kids that are going away to school. We thought doing it now would at least give the opportunity for each kid to be a part of it,” Highley reports.
Graduation isn’t the only thing Seniors are missing out on this year. Prom has also suffered at the hands of the Coronavirus. As of now, no plans are set to have a delayed Prom,. However Highley reports they have spoken about having an event for the students if social distancing is lifted. “We’re hoping that later in the summer, if some of these restrictions are lifted, we can have something special for these seniors. Maybe a cookout, barbeque, family kind of thing, where maybe afterwards they could have a dance and maybe get to utilize their prom dresses and things like that. We’re looking at something like that…right now we’ve really been focusing on making this graduation really nice for them,” said Superintendent Highley.
Seniors have been forced to give up a lot this year, however, it is obvious the administration is doing it’s best to make this year special for the students. TCHS Senior Jonus Glover reports he feels he’s missing out on making memories with his friends. “I feel like I missed out on seeing a lot of my friends I may not ever get to see again,” Glover said. “I also missed making the “Who’s Who” videos for our Senior Video and I will miss being able to get photos with a lot of my friends and especially with my family at graduation.”
Superintendent Highley also mentions the seniors have missed out on their last day of school.
The school closure was unexpected and most students had no idea it would be the last day they attended high school. “It weighs on my heart every day that they’re not getting to do those things,” says Highley.
Although it’s not the graduation seniors were expecting at the beginning of the year, Glover says he plans to make the most of it. “I plan to enjoy the day and make the most of what our teachers and administrators have done to make the day as memorable as possible for us,” says Glover.
“I think in 20 years, the Class of 2020 will be a class that made history. We will be thankful for having a video to remember our graduation and the fun times we’ve shared as a class. It’ll always be sad to know we didn’t get a ‘real’ graduation, but at least we had a graduation.”
Glover also reports he has been adopted by two individuals in the “Adopt a Senior” program. “A lady decided to make a Facebook page called Adopt a Senior 2020 Ohio Valley & Beyond to help the Seniors get through such a dramatic ending to our High School career. Parents or family members add pictures of their Senior with some details about them. A member of the page then chooses a Senior to “adopt” and sends them a gift, a card, or a letter to brighten their day,” Glover explains. “I was adopted by two families and have received one of my packages so far. It included a Class of 2020 photo frame, key chain, bobble head, and water bottle, along with a lot of my favorite snacks. This is such a nice thing to be a part of.”
Seniors aren’t the only ones hurting from the abrupt end to their school year, however. Throughout this whole process, it has become apparent how much Tyler County teachers truly care for the students they teach. Mrs. Hartman, a teacher at TCHS, is no different. “At the beginning of the school year I wrote this quote on the board, ‘You can have reasons or results, but you cannot have both.'” Hartman said. “The class of 2020 resonates with results, whether in the classroom, field, court, lab, greenhouse, or stage, and I have no doubt this resilient group of people will change the world. I have loved my time with every one of these graduates. It didn’t end the way we planned, but it sure was a heck of a ride.”