COVID-19 through the eyes of a high school senior

Class of 2020 sees world turned upside down


Jodi McFarland/Monte Vista High School

An empty Monte Vista High School campus.

January began normally enough for me and my fellow seniors, with senioritis running rampant. History was made when Donald Trump became the third president to undergo an impeachment trial. I helped two students write a piece for The Stampede, Monte Vista High School’s student-run newspaper, on the coronavirus and the racial impact it had on Asian American students on campus. COVID-19 seemed so far away. A disease halfway across the world that had seemingly little effect on us in California. 

February began normally. I turned 18. The 49ers lost the Super Bowl again. The tide concerning COVID-19 shifted when concerns of what seemed to be “not our problem” became “our problem” as the coronavirus crept across the world and into Seattle, slowly inching closer and closer to us in California. 

Whispers of trips being canceled and news reports of cruise ships trapped near the picturesque Golden Gate Bridge led to increased anxiety among Californians. 

March began with field trips being canceled and school sports having no spectators — but the schools made us students keep coming to class. It was recommended that no more than 50 people should be in the same room. My choir class exceeded that every day with 109 students in very close proximity. 

Then, Friday the 13th came — the unluckiest day of the year, even for those who aren’t superstitious — when all schools in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District shut down. None of us seniors knew that March 13 would be our last day on campus, of our childhoods.

Suddenly, all the events that my fellow classmates and I have longed to experience since we were young were canceled or their fates hung in uncertainty.

Graduation. Decision Day. Prom. Ball. Class field trips. Signing yearbooks. Grad Night. Final seasons of sports games we’ve played since we were young. The last choir concert, band concert, or play. The last edition of the school paper. The last exit from your high school’s figurative and literal doors.

We never imagined a worldwide pandemic stripping our dreams from us. COVID-19 came and obliterated our last quarter of high school.    

The second semester of senior year,  according to every upperclassman I’ve ever met, is the epitome of high school. As an underclassman, I anticipated the days where grades held little consequence and weeknights were for goofing off with friends. I began to yearn for those future moments and pictured the festive memories I would make before I had to be an adult out in the real world

For the three previous years of my high school career, I saw seniors commit to colleges and don black caps and gowns. But even before graduation, I couldn’t wait for May 1. I would get to stand in front of a giant U.S. map in the senior quad. I’d be clutching the little sign with my chosen college’s name on it and taking goofy photos with my friends. We would dream about visiting each other spread out all over the country and even the world. We would talk about how excited we are to attend our dream schools and our planned — or undecided — majors. 

Instead, as I write this in mid-April, I’m sitting at home, stuck in a whirlwind of confusion, attempting to make a college decision. Envious of the seniors who got to visit their schools before the quarantine was implemented. Envious of those with a dream school and a plan for their lives.

I’m writing this during spring break. If COVID-19 hadn’t occurred, I would be on the other side of the country visiting one of my top schools and getting to attend admitted student days. 

Graduation: You know, when you get to walk across the stage in a cap and gown and finally get to be done with what feels like the longest four years of your life. 

But, hold up. We haven’t gotten there yet. In August, there were still multiple months of applying for colleges, waiting for acceptance letters, and surviving the last year of high school busywork to endure. 

And now, it seems like we’ll never get there. COVID-19 canceled nearly everything in one fell swoop. Now, what’s going to happen? 

Maybe we’ll have graduation over Zoom. Who knows?

We all dreamed of walking across the stage to the next part of our lives. 

Some may say seniors are acting like typical whiny teenagers who only care about themselves. In some cases that may be true, but the majority of seniors I know are spending the supposed best time of their lives locked up in their homes because their senior year was canceled. Adults talk and keep repeating, “It’s not that big of a deal,” or “You’re lucky to be alive. You shouldn’t be worrying about a stupid dance or photo-op.” 

Yes, I, we understand that the coronavirus is not a trivial matter, and we acknowledge the severity of the situation. However, to us, losing graduation and other significant events is a big deal. The rest of our senior year was canceled. 

April began with a continuation of March’s stay at home orders. Seniors used social media to show off what they would have worn to their senior proms and graduations.  Easter was spent in isolation. 

Discussion of virtual proms and drive-by graduations occurred as an attempt to placate the disappointment the class of 2020 feels. 

School shutdowns extended through the end of the year and all hope of a normal last hurrah of high school went down the drain.

Seniors, it may feel like the world is ending, but we have to be positive. Maybe each of us can create a graduation ceremony in the backyard. We can create virtual graduation celebrations and do everything we can to make this unheard of time better. 

The class of 2020 is coping and, surely, will never forget the last moments of their high school years.