High school seniors reflect on loss of ‘OUR year’


Blindsided. Angry. Stressed. Sad.

Those are some of the emotions high school seniors say they’re feeling now as they watch their last days of high school pass at their homes.

“Who would’ve ever thought that this actually would’ve happened?” Heritage Hills senior Maddy Detzer said via email. “I remember not really thinking too much about how the coronavirus would spread and affect our rural, small area where nothing crazy like self-quarantining happens. But it came. In a matter of a few days, we went from joking about it, to saying it’ll never hit us that bad, to canceling school for weeks and having to learn how to do e-learning for the first time ever.”

Now, Maddy said, she finds herself wondering how many of her “lasts” she’ll get to experience. Will Heritage Hills still get to host a dance marathon? Will she get to compete in the academic bowl this year and have her last chance to make it to the state competition? Will she get a senior prom? The answer to all of those questions at the moment is: I don’t know.

In the two weeks since school closed, seniors have had to cancel college visits, adjust as scholarship deadlines changed and come to terms with the fact that their last semester of high school may not be spent with their friends. The possibility of not walking across the stage for a commencement ceremony has crossed their minds, too.

“I was really looking forward to that,” Jasper High School senior Breann Mehringer said of walking at graduation. “Now, we don’t even know if we’ll get to do it.”

Also altered are Advanced Placement exams, which will be taken all online. For Breann, missing face-to-face instruction in her AP biology and AP physics classes prior to the exam is stressful.

Losing in-person instruction is also a concern for Heritage Hills High School senior Ethan Roos. For North Spencer students, the school closure is their first experience with e-learning. Although he knows he’s getting the same assignments he would have if he were at school, the e-learning just isn’t the same.

“You can’t really replace the in-class instruction with online classes,” he said.

He’s concerned he may get to college in the fall and be behind where his professors expect him to be.

For Northeast Dubois senior Shelby Livingston, losing her final track season is hard. She’s so close to breaking the school record in the 800-meter run, but now she may not get the chance she needs.

“To think that we may not have a season and I may not get my name up on that board is a little upsetting,” she said. “A lot upsetting, actually.”

The worst part, the seniors agreed, has been not being able to spend time with their friends due to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order. Although social distancing was in place before the order, Breann said, she could still spend her Friday nights with one or two friends.

“Now on a Friday night, all you can do is stay home,” she said.

Shelby said the stay-at-home order has been hard on her and her classmates as well. As a small class, Northeast Dubois’s seniors are a tight-knit group, and although they knew their time together was ending, Shelby said they weren’t ready to be separated just yet.

“We’re kind of like, ‘Why is this happening to our class? What did we do?’” she said.

They’re doing the best they can to stay connected, she said. They FaceTime in groups as large as the app allows, and there is a group iMessage with 40 of them in it that is posted to every day. They’re all hoping that their senior banquet and graduation ceremony can stay in place in May and that prom can still happen somehow. Without those, Shelby said, she and her classmates won’t get the closure other classes did at the end of high school.

“They said they’re going to do everything they can to get us the same experiences all the other years had,” Shelby said. “For prom and graduation, we just want one. We don’t care when it is.”
Maddy and her classmates feel similarly.

“All these events that us seniors have not gotten to experience for our last time hits hard,” she said. “This was OUR year. Our last go-round to prove ourselves as leaders and an overall great class that we know we are. It’s all been pretty blindsiding, and it’s only now starting to process in my mind that this is real.”

Ethan pointed out that it’s not just the seniors who are losing out on final experiences. It’s also parents who were looking forward to seeing their child’s last high school sports games, theater performances or other competitions. The teachers, too, had their years cut short.

“Being a senior, you’re preparing to leave, but I think there’s a bit of a process,” Ethan said. “We’re having that cut short in a way that nobody expected.”

Beneath all the stress and anger, however, lies another emotion that’s getting them through: Understanding.

“While maybe not at first, we seniors completely understand the severity of this pandemic, but most struggle with social distancing because our school friends are the last part of senior year we may be able to salvage,” Maddy said. “I know that this is all for the greater good, but it still doesn’t quite dull the sting of no longer being able to experience our lasts.”

Several of the seniors have been looking for the positives out of the situation. Jasper High School senior Jackeline Padilla Silva is enjoying all the extra time she gets to have with her family before leaving for college, and she’s been working on finding new hobbies. One of those has been posting TikTok videos where she cracks jokes about the situation to try to lighten the mood of herself and her classmates.

“If I can get a good laugh out of it, that’s what I’m trying to do,” she said.

Another positive, Jackeline said, has been seeing her class grow even closer through the situation. They’ve been texting each other to check in and make sure everyone is doing OK, taking extra care to make sure no one feels left out. It’s led Jackeline and her classmates to talk to students they may not have otherwise.

“I think the best way to get through this is to talk to the people who are going through the same thing,” she said.

Ethan, too, sees a lot of positives coming out of the situation. He and his family like to hike at Lincoln State Park. With so much shut down, they’ve gotten to do more of that, and they’ve noticed a lot more people and families on the trails than usual.

“With not having to work, people are able to get out and enjoy family time and exercise,” Ethan said.

There’s also time to learn new skills. He’s heard of several people taking the time to learn an instrument or just spend time with their family and learn their family’s history.

“There’s a lot of good that can come out of this,” he said.

Looking for the good is important, he said, because there will be an end to the emergency, and when that end comes, you don’t want to have to say you spent the last few weeks moping.

“It’s a horrible situation,” Ethan said. “But if we don’t take the positive out of it, we aren’t going to come out of it as strong.”

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