Class of Covid-21: Seniors ready to move on, but held back by pandemic’s long stay

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The final semester of senior year of high school is a period typically filled with celebrations and skip days. However, the Covid-19 pandemic made a good portion of that impossible for yet another class of seniors. 

In interviews that began when it was cold, dark and Covid and ran into the somewhat easier spring, the members of the class of 2021 told the Pelham Examiner they felt cheated, bored and disappointed. The events they’d looked forward to since the beginning of their high school careers were taken. Many described a sense of social isolation. They lost their opportunities to learn and to bond. 

Below are statements from ten PMHS seniors—the views of the class of Covid-21—on their experiences in quarantine and the challenges and let downs they faced over the course of the academic year. These written accounts have been edited for length and clarity.

Natalia Cherner

Natalia Cherner

We have missed a lot. We go to a (volleyball) tournament in upstate New York, so that’s gone. We used to go to Penn State every summer and do a three day camp. That was obviously cancelled because of Covid-19. We missed playing a lot and going on the road. Its weird traditions and small ones, but being a part of it and doing it is really sad (to miss). We were just excited to make it “our thing” and to support Pelham volleyball more than it’s been supported in the past. Missing the tournament was really sad. Last year was my first year on varsity, so that was the first year I had gone and it was really fun. We go swimming in the pool in the hotel. The bus ride up there, as long as it is, it’s really fun, just being there. I’m sad that we missed that and I’m sad that I’ll never get to do that again because I’m graduating. Hopefully, they have it next year.

 

Aiden Levy

Aiden Levy

I think the worst impact for me personally was being cut off from people so immediately because just a week or so before school shut down was the Olympics and everything. And it was like a whole, big, grade-wide, coming-together, especially for my grade, because we were very intent on beating the seniors. We spent weeks together after school doing decorations, texting in group chats, staying at school until like 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. I got to be able to talk and be with people and bond with people that I haven’t really been able to throughout most of high school. It was really broadening my social comfort with people and that was really important for me. I was really enjoying it and within a week of that school shut down. It was such a drastic shift—just having the peak of social interaction with Olympics to all of a sudden having months where if I was lucky I could convince my mom to let me go out for a run.

 

Asia Bertuccioli

Asia Bertuccioli

I’m looking to go (to college) internationally so I haven’t been able to visit the places and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to. I’m kind of going in blind.  I can’t see my other friends on other (swimming) teams. I can’t actually compete and have a meaning to race, and I was really wanting to do best my times. Covid-19 had my club team completely terminated. We were supposed to have a huge meet down in Florida, like we do every single year. If I did wanna swim in college, I wouldn’t be able to because I don’t have a club anywhere near me. I wouldn’t have any chances to swim anywhere. 

                                 Ella Burns 

Ella Burns

My grades were good, but I wasn’t really paying attention in school as much as I probably could’ve. And obviously it’s kind of hard for the teachers to focus on the students online and the students in person. But I found that I didn’t really get a lot of attention when I was online, and I like to be sociable with my teachers, so that was kind of hard to deal with. I kind of think it made me disconnect from my schoolwork, so I’d be on my phone during my free period rather than talking to someone or doing work. It’s just easier to do that than actually do something for half an hour. Or, like, during school, I would just find myself zoning out more on my computer, like going onto different tabs, rather than doing the actual work. My grades didn’t really go down, but my ability to retain information has gone down because I’m not paying attention as much. I’m back in school, so I’m doing better.

Vanessa Rosado

Vanessa Rosado

A lot of people have been pessimistic, especially for our grade, because we haven’t had the normal senior year that we were all looking forward to. The haunted house wasn’t the success we all wanted it to be, and we didn’t have the talent show at the normal time, so everything’s been kind of up in the air. We don’t really know what’s going on, but I feel like our grade has been trying more so lately to get together and unite in a way that we can make the most of these last months, so that it’s not as sad as it is. We’re just hoping to have a semi-normal graduation and maybe prom. 

                           Lucia Lavallee 

Lucia Lavallee

I am planning on attending college in the fall. I think I definitely feel ready to leave home and try something new out, but academically, I feel like I’ve learned a significant amount in high school, and missing senior year was probably the least bad academic year to miss. But I’m definitely worried about courses I’m going to need to have taken and have a strong background in for college. So yes, I am prepared, but I’m still concerned about how Covid has impacted my preparedness. It’s impacted going on college tours, having a sense of where I’m going to be for the next four years. I applied to more colleges than I probably would’ve if I had been in a different situation, and now I’m getting my decisions back, and I realize I have no idea about any of the colleges I applied to because I haven’t seen them, I haven’t met people from the schools, so I think that’s definitely been a challenge.

Nadine LeeSang

Nadine LeeSang

 

I think senior events really help you prepare to say goodbye. And because a lot of those events are modified, and sometimes separated by cohorts, I don’t really get to see the people who I would see on a normal basis. In a way, it’s like, I don’t get to say goodbye to them, but I am adjusting to life without them. I’m really upset about the sheer number of people going to parties and not wearing masks. I think that makes me a little more pessimistic. But, I am optimistic because of the number of people getting the vaccine, at least in New York, and how our state has handled the vaccine rollout. It could be better, but I think it’s going pretty smoothly. 

Jamie Burke

Jamie Burke

I run cross country in the fall, and it was very different this year. While we were still able to have a season, and we were thankful for that, because football and other sports were not able to, we had to wear masks while we ran 5Ks at really fast paces. But, I feel like it made me a better runner, because I had to regulate my breath better. My team and I were still able to come together around that obstacle. Visiting colleges is another thing. I only got to visit a few colleges, and I know that a lot of people didn’t get to visit any. I feel if I got to visit more colleges and actually got to have a real visit, not one that was modified, maybe it would’ve given me a better idea of my other colleges, and I would’ve had a more intense selective process. I also  learned the importance of adaptability and perseverance by still making a difference with my Interact club during the pandemic. Just yesterday, my Interact club packaged three boxes to be shipped to the Philippines and Sri Lanka. We still have meetings and find ways to be involved.

Aron Barr 

Aron Barr

I knew so many people who haven’t had the opportunity to view college campuses and get that experience. And now, for the next four years, they’re locked into this thing, for a ridiculous amount of money per year, and they haven’t even been there. They haven’t even had the chance to check it out. And that just seems awful. They’re facing a four-year decision, your future, pretty much, who are you going to give your money to off of an internet ad? I’ve learned a lot (during quarantine) actually, about the way I work, about myself. It’s been a very introspective time, and for that I am honestly pretty thankful. I genuinely don’t think I would’ve ended up becoming a musician and dedicating my life to this, if it hadn’t been for Covid. I had so much free time to myself to think and to write music, and to sing, and to learn the guitar, all these various instruments. I was literally looking at business colleges. And I was just like, “I really wish I was writing a song right now, not looking through all these colleges on Naviance. I really wish I was just playing guitar.” And I was just like, “why don’t I just do that?” I went to my parents, and I was like, “I think I want to go to college for music.”

Tommy Roche

Tommy Roche

There are certain things that don’t matter nearly as much as we make them out to be. All the rules and regulations that our teachers were so dead-set on following and making us follow, they’re changing so rapidly, and we end up having to not really take them for granted anymore but just take them as they are. They are just existing rules. We have to take them at face value. It has just reduced a lot of our faith in our institutions. And I think it’s a trend that’s going to continue. I think we should try and take some lessons from it. It’s definitely not the ideal, but there’s certainly something to be said about maybe having a business meeting over Zoom instead of in-person, or wearing a mask when you’re actually sick and coughing, even if Covid doesn’t exist. I think there are lessons to be learned, even in day-to-day life.