On March 12, I sat in the yearbook room with one of my best friends as we listened to our principal talk through the overhead speakers and tell us all to start bringing our items home from school in case we weren’t allowed to come back the next day. This would be the last time I heard anyone speak over those monitors.
As a member of the class of 2020, I went into my final year in those hallways with such aspirations for what would come of the next nine months. All of those traditions I had watched seniors fulfill every year, it was finally my turn! I was going to get to sign my name above the sixth grade lockers, I was going to get a senior ditch day, a senior prank, a senior track season. I was going to walk through my elementary school in my cap and gown and wave to the next generation, as I had been waved to all those years ago.
However, my classmates and I were stripped of those traditions all too swiftly.
In early February, COVID-19 took its first American victim. As it continued to spread, rumors circled the school. “Will school get canceled?” “Is summer starting sooner?” “Will we do school online?” No one knew what to expect. I hate to admit I didn’t truly realize the impact COVID-19 would have on my life or the world until I was doing school from the comfort of my bed. That was actually one of the best parts of this miserable ending to high school. No more waking up at 7 a.m., no more hours of homework every night, and the majority of the homework I did have, I got to do under my comforter with my dogs beside me.
So even though I lost some of the best days of high school, good things did emerge. A life-long friend of mine, Emily Van Leeuwen, was thrilled to get to “spend lots of time with family and outdoors.” I believe that this is something so vital. Living in the spectacular setting we live in, we have endless mountains, endless rivers, endless fiery sunsets for our viewing. And even when things were at their worst, and the world seemed to be hopeless, that sun rose. Day after day, it still shined down on us, reminding us of the wonderful things we are surrounded with. After it rose, it fell, and we were gifted with that red-orange landscape. On our darkest days, the mountains stayed green, the rivers continued to flow, and those sunsets lit up our nights.
I am writing this to show you all what it was like to be a senior during a pandemic. However, I don’t want to go on and on about how my year was ruined. It wasn’t. Through COVID-19 I discovered my people, the people that bring me positivity. I discovered my hidden talent for crocheting, which I am still searching for! I discovered that I hate running a mile a day, but I have the determination to do it. I discovered that my class is more than just a class. We are a family. We have been through it all, and as one of my exceptional peers, Bella Parker, mentioned to me, “the mindset to look for alternate paths” arose from the ashes that COVID-19 left us all in. Our senior year was derailed and we had to overcome something truly terrifying. The next year is still up for grabs, we are all scrambling to figure out what our first big college experience will look like. One of the best people I know, Harrison Abernathy, who has been dreaming of one college for as long as I can remember, finally got in, and now he won’t even be allowed to attend class without a mask on. But, we adapt. We grow. And maybe one day there will be a vaccine, and the class of 2021 will get a senior prank and a senior ditch day. But as of right now? We adapt.
I wouldn’t recommend being a graduating senior during a pandemic, not in the slightest. Times were tough, and there was more gloom than I have ever seen. Everything is blurry right now. There are countless reasons to grieve over the virus, but my senior year isn’t one of them. I’m still going to cross that stage in July and I am still surrounded by people that love me. So I hope you don’t pity the class of 2020. Instead I hope you celebrate with us. We did it! And we proved that COVID-19 doesn’t stand a chance against Lyons. We are certainly tiny, but we are mightier than ever before.
Olivia Cope is a member of the Lyons Senior High School class of 2020.