A Senior Year Against the Grain

COVID took away the most fun and meaningful events for seniors: the last-first day of school, Homecoming, Winter Ball, Project Week. Seniors blindly applied to colleges while campuses were closed, had their ACTs and SATs canceled countless times, and missed the opportunity to be intimidating to the rest of the school. Prom and graduation are still up in the air now, and many seniors fear that all of their hard work will result in an underwhelming graduation ceremony, and some will never attend a high school Prom.
Entering this school year, students had no idea what to expect in terms of the learning plan. Senior George Alexandrakis said, “I expected the school to recognize that online learning is really not a placeholder for what we all knew as our lives before COVID, thus lightening the workload.” According to George, his hopes were not entirely met, as his homework load surpassed his typical load in a regular year. “I thought that only the first semester was going to be affected, and that expectation quickly fell short after I realized that we were still far away from normalcy.”
Maya Gray, however, said her expectations were low from the start. “I didn’t really have high hopes for any of the typical senior events, and while it is disappointing that we probably won’t have a normal Prom or graduation, I understand why. Honestly, I’m really coming to a place of acceptance, and I don’t see the point in dwelling on what could’ve been,” Maya said.
Besides the negative aspects COVID brought this year, Maya and George mentioned the few ways they benefited. “The only pro that came from this is that, generally, online school is more flexible, so senior year hasn’t been extremely stressful, and I’ve had enough time to do work,” George said. However, he highlighted that the cons outweigh the pros. “Not being able to go on Senior Retreat, senior Project Week, the Latin-Parker basketball games and sit in the front with posters, no senior Homecoming, and potentially no Prom is the worst part,” he said.
Maya touched on how she stepped out of her comfort zone in a way with remote learning. “I’ve doubled up in English classes both semesters this year, and that has been a real highlight for me, because I don’t think I would’ve had the courage to do that if we were in person as I would’ve had less time to get all of my work done,” she said. Maya added that the most challenging part about all of this is not seeing her friends as usual. Maya wrote, “Zoom and going on walks has helped me stay in touch, but it’s just not the same.”
According to Social Chair Olivia Katz, an in-person Prom is not out of the question. “We all agree that having some kind of in-person, masked, socially distanced event would be really great, and it’s realistic,” Olivia said. Her vision for the event will either be splitting up juniors and seniors, a senior-only Prom (juniors would not have Prom), or a potential junior/senior Prom with no sophomore dates. But since seniors missed Prom entirely last year, Olivia said, “Getting some kind of Prom for them this year is the priority right now.”
If it comes to it, virtual events are also an option, but an unpopular one. “The point of events like Prom is to literally bring people together to have fun, which over Zoom is impossible,” George said.
Maya agreed, adding, “I don’t really want a virtual Prom or graduation, but I don’t have any control over if we can do things in person, because only the state can do that.”
On March 2, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot stated that the capacity limit for bars, restaurants, events, and other venues would continue to be restricted to no more than 50 people. Thus, if this order isn’t lifted, Prom and graduation might look different than families anticipate.
Dean of 11th and 12th graders Joe Edwards said he couldn’t be more proud of the seniors and their hard work this year despite their varied responses regarding the difficulty of hybrid learning. “From dance shows to improv to theater to sports to Maya’s KUWTR (Keeping Up With The Romans) emails, the seniors have hung in there and found ways to showcase their collective spirit in ways that go beyond the classroom,” he said. “It’s been wonderful to witness.”
Mr. Edwards said that he will most certainly continue the tradition of honoring seniors however he can. “We continue to talk about these things every day as well as monitor guidelines from IDPH, CDPH, CDC, and others.” Future plans for seniors will be communicated to families as soon as possible.
Ultimately, the seniors will probably never get a normal Prom or graduation, but the faculty and the student government continue to emphasize the importance of taking safety precautions during these times so events like Prom and graduation are still able to happen in some fashion. With the rapid distribution of vaccines, there is hope that people over the age of 16 will be vaccinated by May. If this is the case, the current seniors will most likely be on track for an almost completely normal first year of college.
“One thing I definitely feel more grateful for after this experience is being in a classroom, and, in that sense, COVID has made me excited to have that experience again, wherever it might happen,” Maya said.