Graduating amidst adversity

HEM seniors reflect on a school year cut short


When COVID-19 started to hit epidemic portions in parts of the United States, one of the casualties was the NCAA Basketball Tournament. It was the first sign schools were facing changes. Spring break was starting for many schools and, in a matter of weeks, spring break turned permanent

It caught many off guard. Suddenly kids were at home and parents found themselves as educators and teachers were educating students remotely.

Seniors of 2020 have it particularly hard having missed out on rites of passage before heading off to college or the real world. Times have changed dramatically since March when the closures began.

No prom, class trip or walking to the principal to get the diploma. At Hanna, Elk Mountain, Medicine Bow (HEM) High School, the students will have a graduation exercise, but there are restrictions that make it clear these are not normal times.

At HEM many of the seniors said the closure has been difficult. Previous track state champions, Shane and Conor McGraw, have felt the loss of not being to compete their final year.

“The closure changed graduation and closed track,” Shane said. “I was looking forward to track and all star games.”

Sera Akin agreed with Shane about graduation.

“Well, graduation will be different,” Akin said. “We are finishing our senior year at home instead of walking down the halls one last time.”

Conor agreed with his brother about track.

“I personally was the most effected by the cancelation of track” Conor said. “This and missing out on the final portion of my senior year; to seeing teachers and hanging out with friends. I am looking forward to competing in football and track in the upcoming year.”

Freddie Wagner agreed caused loss for her senior year.

“COVID-19 has certainly impacted not only my senior year, but seniors across the county, state and nation. I know I certainly never imagined the last semester of my senior year would be like this,” Wagner said. “I’m the president of our FFA chapter this year, a position I’ve dreamed of holding for years. Unfortunately, the state FFA convention was canceled due to the current health situation. This pandemic has taken a lot of memories and experiences away from seniors everywhere. Whether it be proms, graduation ceremonies or sport seasons. It sucks and I’m sure we’re all feeling lost and cheated out of those experiences due to an invisible enemy.”

Basil Phillips and Dade Thackston said the closure started them early into the real world.

“It has made it very interesting, if you could say that,” Alexander Claice observed. “This has turned the school year into a roller coaster.”

“I was looking forward to the last few months of no real world responsibilities,” Nate Bettencourt said.

The loss of not making memories bothers the seniors.

“The impacts have messed up my entire last half of the school year where we seniors won’t have hardly any more memories in this school,” Nick McDaniels said. “I was looking forward to graduation and walking with my class.”

“The impact of the closure on my school year and how it left me missing out on things like prom has been very, very hard,” Megan Hunter said.

Emily Masingale agreed with Hunter.

“Honestly, it seems a lot more stressful and I never in my life thought I would miss being in school,” Masingale said. “I was looking forward to working on the mural.”

The seniors are dealing with the changes, though.

“I am glad things are starting to re-open,” Shane said. “Thankfully UFC (Ultimate Fight Championship) is still going.”

“I understand why everything is changing,” Conor said. “I believe that it has gone maybe a little too far at times, but it looks like everything is improving.”

“Change is sometimes good, but the home school change, was not good at all,” Thackston said. “I am looking forward to college.”

“I think that this incident is going to cause more people to be prepared for another incident of this size, “Claice commented.

Bettencourt accepts the changes.

“Its happening whether we want it to or not,” Bettencourt said. “I am just going with the flow and making the best out of the situation.”

Phillips and Hunter were not impressed with all the changes that are being required.

Masingale appreciated her educators more with all the change.

“I have a whole new respect for teachers, like it’s hard enough to try and get students to turn in things when you see them everyday, but now its near impossible,” Masingale commented.

“If this virus has shown me anything, it’s that I was taking for granted things I thought would always be there. Things like being able to walk the halls of school, seeing friends, going out to the movies or the grocery store,” Wagner said. “It’s just a reminder to me that time isn’t always promised. The coronavirus may have taken our last semester of high school, but it can’t take away the last three and a half years of memories, laughter and experiences. As long as those moments are held close, we’re going to be just fine.”

Wagner does acknowledge there is frustration amongst her peers.

“I’m certainly not saying that this anger, hurt and sadness that we’re all feeling isn’t justified or understandable,” Wagner said. “It’s truly a sucky situation. Most of us were brought into the world during 9/11 and now we’re spending our final semester in school during a pandemic in the safety of our homes.”

Some of these young adults admit learning remotely has been difficult .

“If my grades are good, then I know I can pass a lot of things,” Thackston said.

“I wish we would’ve just been graduated immediately,” Hunter said. “Because ever since the closure I’ve almost ruined my whole school career just because I can’t understand anything without a proper teacher and lesson.”

Other seniors were caught by surprise their year attending HEM was over.

“This school year gave me reason after reason to just give up,” Bettencourt said candidly. “But I’m not built like that. This senior year made me a stronger person.”

“This school closing has effected my life in so many ways,” McDaniels said. “Like all of us getting quarantined to our house realizing this is my last year of high school.”

“I never knew my last day of school was going to be in a year cut short,” Akin said.

“It is really weird and scary that I will be an adult going inot the real world without really getting to say goodbye to teachers, friends and the building itself, the way I would have on a true last day of school,” McDaniels said.

Wagner pointed out this is not the first time seniors have faced adversity due to the times they lived in.

“We’re upset, and it’s more than okay to embrace those feelings,” Wagner said. “But I’d like to put some things in perspective. Seniors in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s were sent to war. They didn’t get to experience prom, graduation or any other senior activities, either. Some never came back from the call of duty.”

She said the school years past and the closure this year made seniors resilient and ready to face the challenge of the future.

“Is there really anything that the class of 2020 can’t handle after all this?”

It is a million dollar question.


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