A Look at the Class of 2021 Senior Year From a Parent's Perspective
Thursday June 24th was a gorgeous and one of the most memorable days of our lives as parents. On this date, our daughter, Ariel Simone Allen, would don her cap and gown, and graduate high school as a part of the Elmira High School Class of 2021. The ceremony was on the Ernie Davis Academy football field and in his opening statement, Principal Christopher Reger stated that it had been 465 days since the Class of 2021 had a normal day of classes. One calendar year and 100 days, the Covid-19 pandemic changed this class forever. As a parent of a senior, I knew it had been some time, but hearing the exact amount of days, truly put into perspective what this Senior Class had been through.
On March 16, 2020, all in person classes and activities had been abruptly canceled due to the coronavirus. The seniors in the Class of 2020, lost the last quarter of their Senior Year. They lost their prom, Senior Skip Day, Senior Trip and all of the traditions that end your high school experience. The Class of 2021 watched as their predecessors experienced those losses and were nervous, anxious and downright scared to see what their senior year was going to look like. There were no answers. As parents, we were equally worried. Whether we understand it or not, kids crave structure and normalcy. They are creatures of habit. Waking up in the morning and going to school has been their normal habit since they were 4 years old. Our daughter was no different. She struggled with staying engaged. From March till almost November her interaction with her classmates was inconsistent to say the least.
The school year started with hybrid classes and cohorts. So the first half of the alphabet went in person on Mondays and Tuesdays and then on Wednesdays, everyone was virtual. The second half of the alphabet went on Thursdays and Fridays. Parents had the choice to make their kids 100% virtual if they chose to. So, while it wasn’t ideal, you did have the ability to be around classmates and have interaction. However, there were still no sports, no clubs, and no extracurricular activities to speak of. In October, when the kids thought maybe sports and extracurricular activities would return, a spike in Covid cases took the students back out of school and back to 100% virtual for an indefinite amount of time. It was at this point that we began to notice not just with our daughter, but with her friends and peers, the frustration of not being in school. The Zoom Classes had become too much. The non-ability to create bonds and memories with kids they had spent so much of their lifetime in what could be their final year together was hitting a boiling point.
A bigger issue also began to make a play: College. Visits were out. Everything had to be done virtually. Which raised the question of; “Can you pick out a school sight unseen?” Virtual tours are great, but there’s nothing like visiting a school and seeing a dorm room, and a lecture hall up close and personal, and being able to get a feel for a place. And for that “place” to feel like home, as when you pick a school, which will be your home for the next 4-6 years. Our daughter was no different. Her college search began with familiarity but ended up selecting a school that she still, to this day, hasn’t stepped foot on the campus.
2020 was coming to an end. The holidays were among us and the school year was still in a state of flux. The students at this point were just going with the flow. With no answers in sight, the days turned into nights and there was still a big mystery as to how the final six months of their high school career would map out.
In January, hope began to appear. There were rumblings about schools possibly reopening, sports potentially returning and maybe, just maybe, some normalcy for a group of students who needed it more than anything. And then the day came:
February 1st, 2021. Sports Were Returning! They were returning with restrictions, but they returned. Our daughter being a cheerleader was ecstatic. She was going to get one final opportunity to do the thing she loved with her teammates whom she had missed greatly. She was going to get her well-earned Senior Night for the Winter Cheer Season. With her mom being the cheer coach, Ariel had watched years and years of traditions and was counting down to this year for her rites of passages. When she finally understood she was getting the opportunity, she cherished them like no other years before.
The Sports Seasons came and went! A little out of order, but they happened, the next order of business to hopefully return, was the Senior Prom and the Senior Class Activities. Again, rumblings got out, but there was a shroud of mystery as to when and how and still, IF, these traditions were going to happen. With the onset of vaccinations and the restrictions being lifted slowly each day, the Class of 2021 began to become excited about their prom. It was to be held on June 12th on the football field. Which in itself, was a bit odd, but there was a prom. There was a banquet, there was a Senior Prank, and more importantly, there was graduation. The Administration highlighted the resiliency of this class. They spoke about how the Class of 2021 rolled with the punches and continued to persevere.
As a parent I applaud my daughter and her classmates. They persevered. Were there tears? Yep. Was there despair? Yep. Was there doubt? Yep. But they never allowed it to defeat them. And if they can make it through those 465 days of non-normalcy, they can do anything in the world.
Congratulations to the Class of 2021!!!