In Their Own Words

Class of 2020, Arapahoe County: Together, apart

Local high school seniors share their thoughts on graduating during the pandemic

Posted

Marcus Morgan, Arapahoe High School, Centennial

What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
Maybe I am a little biased toward Arapahoe High School, but I believe that we have the best teachers in our school and some of the most talented, good-hearted, school-spirited, and outright fun students in Colorado. I miss the energy, whether it's the energy from our loving and supportive staff members and teachers, or the energy from my amazing student peers.
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
The toughest part is the uncertainty of it all. People fear what they don't know. This connects with me deeply during this time, as I feel like I have no idea what lays ahead. But there is a Lillian Russell quote that I have sticky-noted on my door to look at every morning: “We all have a fear of the unknown. What one does with that fear will make all the difference in the world.” This has really guided my mental health and thought processes throughout the day. We are all in this uncertain time together, but what differs us from one another is what we do with our allotted time. Whether we waste it away and ask for more time when all this is through and done or instead come out new, improved, and with something to show for it.
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
As a young person going out with millions of other young people into this world, I have learned what may take some people a lifetime to learn: The importance of family, friends and community in my life. They are the sole support system that makes me who I am. My mother always told me, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and I believe it. All this has shown me the gratitude I have for my “village” in my life, or as we say at Arapahoe High School “my tribe,” for their unwavering love, their guidance and support, and their framework for my personal growth.
 

Austen Mazenko, Cherry Creek High School, Greenwood Village

What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year? 
 
What I actually miss most is probably the little social interactions unique to school or a workplace. There are a lot of fellow classmates and even staff whom I'm not really close enough with to keep in touch with during college but whom I would often run into or just share a class with at school.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time? 
 
Frankly, the toughest part has really been reconciling myself with the uncertainty and powerlessness marking this period of time ... It's challenging to make decisions about college and my future as a senior when experiences like admit weekends are canceled, when I must begin to reckon with my schedule and whether I should take a gap year ... It is scary to know that even the most mundane and trivial actions come with a risk factor that I can't really estimate; it's terrifying to fear that any action I take to help others which involves leaving my house could endanger the health of my family.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this? 
 
This whole situation has really strengthened my conviction in the importance of appreciating the little things in life and stopping every once in a while to look around … With more free time to try my hand at the piano, pick up a book for pleasure or simply appreciate a sunset from my patio, this time has instilled in me a deeper appreciation for general self-care and the finer aspects of life. Indeed, I have learned to further embrace a sort of easygoing, life-goes-on mentality.
 

Emma Maschka, Englewood High School

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
I miss all of it — even the little things we would complain about all the time, like getting up early for class or a teacher being too talkative. It has been weird being in class and not actually being in class with friends and not even being able to be together when we have our last day of school. There is really no closure for the year.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
I think finding the motivation to get through the rest of the school year. I can't see friends. We can't go to the mall on the weekend and hang out. It has just been difficult. You kind of go through it by yourself because you can't be with anyone else.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
I think it's important to take a step back from your busy lifestyle and reflect on life itself. Being a Christian, I am able to focus on that a little more with my relationship with God.
 

Madison Mitchell, Heritage High School, Littleton

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss having the ability to see my friends and teachers. On March 13, nobody knew it was going to be our last moments together. Our ending feels empty. Our class waited four years for events like senior prom, and we were all disappointed to not experience those milestones as a class.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The toughest part about this time is sitting at home, feeling helpless, and knowing many people are suffering and there is little I can do to help them. Not knowing when things will go back to normal is especially hard to process. My classmates and I do not know what our next chapter will look like. For me, I hope I get to attend my new university in the fall. I know some of my classmates feel the same, whether that's going off to school, entering the workforce, public service, or the military.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
One of the biggest lessons I learned was to cherish the moments I have with my friends, family and teachers; to be thankful that I have the opportunity (at some point) to go to school, even when there is so much unknown.
 

Natalie Parkhurst, Littleton High School

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
There's already the mentality that I'm never going to see a lot of the people that I go to high school with again, so not being able to spend the last couple months with my friends has been tough. Spring Fling and prom and graduation and grad parties are all one long goodbye, and missing out on events that I've been expecting and looking forward to for years, as well as not being able to do them with the people I wanted to be able to say goodbye to, has been rough.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The toughest part about this time is sitting at home, feeling helpless, and knowing many people are suffering and there is little I can do to help them. Not knowing when things will go back to normal is especially hard to process. My classmates and I do not know what our next chapter will look like. For me, I hope I get to attend my new university in the fall. I know some of my classmates feel the same, whether that's going off to school, entering the workforce, public service, or the military. Whatever it is, it just got put on pause and that causes a great sense of unease.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
One of the biggest lessons I learned was to cherish the moments I have with my friends, family, and teachers; to be thankful that I have the opportunity (at some point) to go to school, even when there is so much unknown. Nothing is guaranteed, so don't expect things to just come to you or be given to you. Work for what you want, be patient, and be essential.
 

Mary Kate Wilkerson, Colorado's Finest High School of Choice, Englewood

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
I really miss the environment and the people.It was a very nonjudgmental environment. This is the third high school I've been to, and I have never been in an environment that was so accepting where you know everyone and can interact with everyone. I really miss all the friendly faces and the kindness.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
I would probably say getting motivated to do work at home. With in-person learning, it is so much fun to interact with the teachers, and they do an amazing job of teaching in a way that everyone loves.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
This has definitely been a time to think about other people, and it has been nice to slow down. I have been forced to slow down, but so many people my age are of the mindset that they are young and healthy and won't get the virus. I'm not worried about getting it, but I live with my grandparents. My dad is in the at-risk crowd. My best friend has cerebral palsy. I have tried to stay healthy for them.
 

Dulce Garcia, Eaglecrest High School, Arapahoe County

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
As a senior whose year got cut short, I find myself missing the small things. I miss being able to see all my friends and teachers in the hallway. I miss being able to jump up and down on the bleachers while chanting my school chants with pride. I miss all the small events like powderpuff and our senior barbecue that never got to happen... While seniors may not get a prom or a graduation, it's much more than that. It's being able to get validation for four years of hard work.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
Not being able to formally say goodbye to everyone. It breaks my heart knowing that seniors didn't get to know when our last day of school would be. When you think of the last day of school you imagine a rush of excitement building up throughout the day and being able to run through the halls once the final bell rings.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
The biggest lesson I will take away from all of this is just knowing that nothing is ever guaranteed. As we've seen with COVID-19, our world can change in an instant, so we shouldn't spend all of our time worrying about the future.
 

Bailey Pradhan, Grandview High School, Aurora

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
The final closure to my “childhood” and missing out on the memories that go with it. The final semester of senior year is when we truly close this chapter of our life through events like senior breakfast, senior slideshow, senior superlatives, end-of-year banquets and graduation practices for the big day.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
Not being able to “be there” with those I care about. Yes, there is Zoom and FaceTime and a bunch of other video chat sites, but in no way is it even close to the same... It feels like I have been cut off from my support system outside my immediate family, which was not something I thought I could lose. And beyond just that, there is now so much uncertainty surrounding both the present and the future.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
The biggest lessons I will be taking away from this experience is to live each moment to the fullest and to take advantage of every opportunity. This tough time has shown me the value of family, friends, education and even the smallest things like hugs. Never could I have thought that I would not be able to hug those I love most … just a hug. It shows how much can be taken in an instant and how much we take for granted.
 

John Barry, Regis Jesuit High School (Boys Division), Aurora

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss the feeling of waking up in the morning, knowing I was going to get to be at my favorite place all day … I miss laughing with my friends as we walk into our last period of the day ... I miss seeing my teachers in person and learning something from them every day. Most of all, I miss the Regis Jesuit community and the love that they showed me each and every day.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
I remember the day we found out that we would be taking an extra week of spring break due to COVID-19 concerns. I was at my locker after school, and my friend asked me if I was going to take everything home. I told him no because in my heart, I had hope that we would be coming back to school and that I would open this locker numerous more times before high school was over … Will I ever see my teachers again? Will I ever attend my senior prom? Will I get to walk across the stage at graduation? These uncertainties circle my head every day and there's nothing I can do to stop them.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
I've learned that complaining about going to school doesn't compare to the feeling of wishing you were back at school. I've learned to take no high school event, dance, assembly or anything for granted because you never know how many you have left … But most importantly, I've learned that nothing is ever guaranteed, so live every moment in the present and never wish for anything more.
 

Riley Davis, Regis Jesuit High School (Girls Division), Aurora

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I do not get to take in the walls that made me who I am now, and I do not get to thank and spend time with the people who shaped me ... I also have FaceTimed my friends, yet I still miss the spontaneous joy we would have found in big events like prom, or quick runs down to the cafeteria for tater tots.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
I would have never thought little things like giving a friend a hug or going to Mass would be “prohibited” for unknown periods of time … I am also unsure if I should start preparing for college in the fall. While I am dealing with the personal uncertainty, it also burdens me to know how others are challenged with life-changing hardships.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
I am grateful for this time with my family before I head to college, as we have gotten to partake in little things we might have not stopped to do otherwise … I am trying to start now, and I wish to continue when the pandemic is over, (to) cherish all my blessings with more depth and gratitude.
 

Laurel Grosz, Smoky Hill High School, Aurora

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
Seeing my friends, teachers and students. I have built some very close bonds with my classmates in my four years at Smoky Hill, and I miss seeing them, laughing with them and learning with them every day. The teachers at Smoky Hill have also had a huge impact on my life, and I'm sad that I won't be able to say goodbye in person. I was also blessed with the opportunity to student teach the Beginning Women's choir this year. I miss my girls so much, and I am constantly thinking about them and can only hope and pray that they are healthy and happy during these crazy times. 
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
Trying to have the best end-of-the-year possible, while still being remote and safe.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
To be more patient with not only myself but my family and friends as well, and to really think outside the box. I've oftentimes found myself bored, and trying to come up with ways to entertain myself, my family, and my friends while being safe and staying at home has been a really fun challenge for me. I've found and come up with so many activities that have been a fun distraction for everyone involved. I've also learned to never take something for granted.
 
 

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