The spring of one’s senior year of high school is supposed to be a magical time filled with milestones and time-honored traditions.
But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing about this spring has been traditional. There is no traditional prom, no traditional spring sports season and no traditional graduation ceremony.
That wasn’t going to keep the faculty and staff at MacArthur High School from making sure the Class of 2020 is dressed for the occasion and still gets to enjoy their final weeks as high school students.
On Tuesday, MacArthur seniors drove through the front driveway of the high school, where they were met by school faculty members and representatives from Balfour, decked out in masks and gloves, who distributed caps, gowns, honor cords and other graduation-related items to the students.
“We tried to make contact with our seniors and set something up to make sure we supported them and rewarded them,” Jerri Santos, the counselor for the senior class, said. “They’ve worked with us, and we also have a great group of parents who have been patient with us as we try to set these things up.”
Sure, they may not have a physical graduation ceremony, not in the traditional sense, at least. Assistant Principal Angela Cordes said there is still the possibility of a summer ceremony with special circumstances. But as of right now, the only in-stone ceremony is a “virtual commencement,” essentially a slideshow of student’s photos to be streamed on May 22, which was set to be MacArthur’s original graduation date.
“I think it’s cool because our teachers made sure we get to still have something,” senior Nikara Denton said.
Denton was riding with friend Tyler Wood, who echoed the sentiment that receiving things like robes, senior shirts and graduation announcements still carried much of the same feeling that every senior gets to experience.
“I mean, yeah, it sucks we don’t get to have a graduation, but it’s cool to see the teachers working with the kids to make this happen,” Wood said.
The lack of a physical ceremony may not be the ending many seniors had envisioned for their high school careers, but many are understanding when it comes to the unusual circumstances.
“You can’t really do a lot with all the rules right now,” Yadiel Ortiz said. “So it means a lot to see the teachers making sure we have our gowns and stuff.”
Graduation represents not just students saying goodbye to a school, but staff members saying goodbye to students for whom they looked after for years. This year — and the past two months, in particular — have been especially hard on Jerri Santos, the counselor for the senior class. She took the job at the high school four years ago, before which she was at MacArthur Middle, so she has known most of these students since they were in seventh and eighth grade. When talking about the fact that her students won’t get to walk across a stage and receive a diploma, Santos had to fight back tears.
“It’s heartbreaking because they’ve worked so hard,” Santos said. “But they’re a resilient class and they’re very excited about their future.”
The future is still muddled because of the unknown duration of the pandemic. But after making it through a bizarre spring, the seniors are ready to face the next stage of their lives head-on and with a positive mindset.
“It’s different for sure, but hopefully it’s something we can look back at when we’re 40 or 50 as something special,” senior Racer Felter said. “What other class can say that they’ve been through something like this?”