2020 grads make the best of lost year
By Corky Mau
The pandemic brought havoc to the high school class of 2020. Without knowing it, students had their final day on campus Friday, March 13. When Gov. Gavin Newsom announced California campuses would remain closed through the end of the academic year, schools canceled or postponed senior class events. Traditional rites of passage into adulthood were gone.
To see how local graduating seniors are doing, Pocket Life checked in with some of our homebound young people.
“This is supposed to be our time to celebrate, a time to make classic high school memories,” says Carina Singer, who attends Christian Brothers High School. “Senior year is when you finally gain a sense of who you are and your confidence on campus is at an all-time high.”
John F. Kennedy senior Leo Bauer says, “I thought we’d be right back to school after spring break. As the date got pushed back farther, I began to feel the increasing seriousness of the situation. The world scene changed daily and I was waking up to a new and more complicated situation every day.”
Many students expressed a reaction similar to that of Kennedy’s Emily McLeod, who says, “It’s all kind of a blur. I had a gut feeling we wouldn’t be going back to school, but I was hopeful. I’m still pretty bummed, but my attitude now is definitely more positive.”
KC McCarthy has taught senior English at Kennedy since 2007. “Students are being good troopers and want to do their part to help,” he says. “But I know they’re all super bummed right now.”
Like Emily McLeod, Bella Valdez regrets missing Kennedy’s Senior Rally. “I was really looking forward to the rally because the whole school comes together to say goodbye to us,” Valdez says. McLeod adds, “And we’re missing out on our senior barbecue, Ditch Day and the senior pranks!”
Luc Koco and Nicholas Cazares attend the School of Engineering and Sciences. The senior prom and trip to Santa Cruz were canceled. Koco was on the prom planning committee, which worked hard to produce an event that didn’t happen. The annual Senior Sunset at Garcia Bend Park, which takes place the night before commencement at the Elks Lodge, was also canceled.
Andrew Ely is a staff photographer and writer for the Clarion, Kennedy’s newsletter. “I’m sad that I couldn’t go to the Senior Ball last month,” he says. “I was looking forward to our last school dance.” Genesis Taylor attends West Campus High School. “I’m really sad about not getting my yearbook signed by my friends and teachers,” she says. “I was really looking forward to this because I waited until my senior year to get a yearbook.”
Missing June commencement is the biggest blow. As English teacher McCarthy says, “I always tell the seniors in September how cool the last few months of the school year are. What a tragedy they’re missing the chance to run down that home stretch of their four-year journey.”
The cap-and-gown ceremony will be different this year. Many schools are planning virtual graduation ceremonies. Christian Brothers might reschedule commencement for July or August, if crowd restrictions are lifted.
Post-graduation celebrations will have less fanfare, featuring small gatherings with family members. Friends and relatives will send congratulations via social media.
Their lives have been upended, but I think these teens are navigating the uncertain times pretty well—staying positive and optimistic so they can focus on the next phases of their lives.
Leo Bauer plans to enroll at American River College for certification in welding. Several others will attend local community colleges to take advantage of two years of free tuition before transferring to four-year institutions. Nicholas Cazares and Andrew Ely will attend Cosumnes River College. Bella Valdez, Carina Singer and Genesis Taylor will enroll at Sacramento City College.
Luc Koco has been accepted to Sacramento State, where he plans to major in design studies. In October, Emily McLeod will go to U.S. Navy boot camp in Chicago, then to Michigan for basic training. Her career goal is to serve in the Naval Nurse Corps.
The Class of 2020 will have a unique look back on their last year of high school. After this experience, they will be ready to handle any challenge or adversity.
I can only imagine what their five-year reunion will look like—with hopes that these young people can make up for lost time and enjoy some missed milestones, such as dancing at the Senior Ball or walking across the stage for a belated graduation ceremony.
Corky Mau can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.