My View

Don’t Feel Bad for My Senior Year
By ELLIE FRIEDMAN/School Administrator, June 2020

AS A HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR who has been incredibly involved in my school and community, I’ve had some time of late to consider how my final year of school is coming to a most unexpected conclusion.

Because my school district (like most of the schools throughout Michigan) last conducted in-school classes on March 13, I have been doing a lot of reading and reflecting on the global economic, political and social impacts of COVID-19. Like, a lot.

And after hours of consideration, I have come to the conclusion that my lost “senior experiences” don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Of course, I always have looked forward to helping out with graduation speeches, receiving recognition at Senior Honors Night, leading my last school club meeting and dancing with my friends at prom. But when viewed in the context of broader developments, those experiences seem largely unimportant. The economy has been crashing, the presidential administration has seemed lost in responding to a real crisis, and a dangerous virus was spreading without check across the country and around the world.

While experiencing drastic and sudden changes to my daily routine, I began to realize I had to accept the loss of my senior-year festivities as necessary.

Feeling Grateful

I have seen social media posts encouraging readers to pray (specifically for the graduating class of 2020), and I appreciate people’s concern for me and others who will miss the face-to-face activities that accompany senior year. If anything, these event cancellations only have given me added perspective on what I can be grateful for, including the family, friends and teachers and to be mindful of what I do have control over.

I have been using my extra time at home to study topics that interest me. I reach out to my friends (virtually, of course) and tell them how much their presence means to me. I will cherish my high school diploma and high school experience even more because it will have one hell of a story behind it. I will enter college in the fall with meatier issues to focus on in my policy and education studies at Michigan State University, and I hope that challenges from this pandemic can serve as a catalyst for even larger strides toward true educational equity.

To high school seniors, I say it’s OK to be upset. It’s OK to ponder everything that could have been. But I encourage my classmates to consider how this unprecedented turn of events can prove to be a good thing.

Personal Connections

I have tried to stay positive during this period of physical distancing, which can affect mental health. That is just another reason why students and staff should continue to connect with each other during these unprecedented times.

At its core, education is important to me because of the sense of community that a school generates. And though teaching and learning may not be able to take place in a physical way, this sense of community can’t be stopped by a global pandemic. Changing the nature of these crucial interactions to digital forums has been difficult for school communities, but it is a challenge that is prompting students, teachers and administrators in school communities to find innovative ways to celebrate students, especially the graduating seniors.

Regardless of how the final weeks of my senior year play out, the COVID-19 pandemic will fundamentally change our world. I know, though, that we can endure the changes and hardships and lift one another up if we reach out and work together. We can do this.

ELLIE FRIEDMAN is a senior at Walled Lake Central High School in Commerce Township, Mich. Twitter: @elliefrieds. The author adapted this column from an earlier version appearing in the Detroit Free Press.