The coronavirus is affecting every aspect of our everyday lives. It's keeping us out of school, in our homes, away from our loved ones, and it's postponing and cancelling a lot of major events. If you're a senior in either college or high school, you've probably spent the last few days hearing one piece of bad news after another. Your graduation is canceled. The fate of your prom is up in the air. The celebration of everything you've work toward throughout the last four years has been knocked down by a virus. It's awful, but it's important to remember that even though you may not be walking across a stage later this spring, your hard work and accomplishments still deserve to be recognized. As a reminder that you aren't in this alone, Seventeen talked to eight high school and college seniors about how the virus is affecting their end of school plans, and how they feel about the whole situation, and why missing this milestone is a big deal.
It's there last chance to have some fun before the real world.
Irene, 17, was not only looking forward to graduating high school but also to her last chances to have fun before she begins training to become a US Marine in July, but prom, graduation, and every other senior activity has been canceled at her high school in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
"It breaks my heart that the class of 2020 won’t be able to get the full senior experience," said Irene's 19-year-old sister Mariani. " I just really want her and all the other seniors to get to experience the fun I and others were able to experience when we were lucky enough to have it."
Mariani does have a backup plan though. She wants to throw events of her own. Not only is her sister graduating this year, but so are her two cousins. She's hoping she can put together a prom and graduation for her family members and their friends.
Graduation means a lot to their families too.
It was not only Cristal, 24, who was looking forward to her graduation, but her entire family. "I'm a first-generation college student so this graduation was a pretty big deal to my family," explained the soon-to-be Columbia grad. Her plan was to celebrate the big moment with her family on a trip to Dominican Republic, but now the possibility of that still occurring seems slim.
"This is a degree I've been working towards basically my entire life," she said. "I'm really bummed out that my family won't get to see me walk the stage, but I'm sure we'll still find a way to celebrate and make it special. Even if it means cutting a cake at home, putting on a cap and gown, and walking across my living room as my dad calls my name."
Semhar, 21, who is also a first-generation college student, is upset that her family won't be able to watch her graduate this spring from Washington University in St. Louis.
"Being a first generation college student, the significance of graduations go far beyond a ceremony," she explained. "My family came to the United States to provide me the opportunity for higher education and have looked forward to this day for as long as I can remember. Graduation parties are a large milestone within the Ethiopian-American community for this same reason."
They've worked their butts off to get to this point.
As another first-generation college student, Sheila, 21, put all of her energy into succeeding academically, even if that meant working and attending school full time. She worked extra hard to graduate in the spring with a double major in finance and information systems, which meant she had to take six classes for the past two semester, her largest workload yet. "I was falling into a depression, getting stressed about my six classes, work, looking for a job after graduation, while still trying to keep up with my social life and family," she said. "All I wanted was to stay in a room and sleep hours on end."
That's why, she began counting down the weeks until graduation, but seven weeks out she received an email from her school, Florida International University, that commencement was canceled.
"I was devastated," she explained. "I worked so hard and sacrificed so much so that I could walk across that stage with a custom cap and shake hands with leaders of FIU. I know I am still graduating and receiving a diploma...but I lost the symbol of the finish line. I lost the symbol of the end of this chapter." While she thinks FIU will allow the students graduating this semester to walk across the stage and get their diploma at a later date, she doesn't think it will be the same. "I won't have that once in a lifetime experience. I won't be able to celebrate after the ceremony and go on the summer vacation of experiencing the world like I have been dreaming of before beginning my life in the workforce."
There are other events attached to graduation that have also been cancelled.
Bailee is a senior at Illinois State University, getting her degree in fashion merchandising and design. On top of graduating this spring, Bailee, 21, was also looking forward to putting on the 2020 ISU fashion show, something she has wanted to do since she was in 8th grade.
"I have never felt so crushed and so heartbroken in my entire life. This week has continuously brought bad news and I am a pool of emotions," she explained. "First, the fashion show was cancelled, which is the biggest event of the year for my small program...It is so hard to believe that all that we have worked for since August has come to an end."
While ISU is offering a virtual ceremony in May and a chance for the spring 2020 graduates to walk in the winter ceremony, Bailee and her classmates are not very pleased by this consolation prize.
"To be blunt, I am currently feeling very unimportant and demeaned due to the new options that we have for graduation," she admitted. "It is unsettling to know that I have to walk in a term that is not Spring 2020. I know that this was a very hard decision to make and our health is the most important in situations like these, but I can't help but feel numb. I almost feel as if I am not graduating at all. Walking across this stage is something that I have looked forward to since elementary school, and I think that everyone deserves to be able to celebrate such a huge accomplishment. For now, I am heartbroken and sad."
Students want their big moment so badly, they're taking it into their own hands.
When the University of Georgia canceled their 2020 commencement, students got together and made a petition, begging the president of the school to hold a graduation ceremony at a later date.
"I beg you to please consider an alternative," reads the petition, which now has over 20,000 signatures. "If we cannot have our commencement ceremony on May 8th, could we potentially have it a few months later? Once the threat of COVID-19 has calmed down and the world isn’t so on-edge. Over 327,000 living alumni have sat together, with their graduating classes, to celebrate one another and see those fireworks as a symbol of their accomplishments. We want that experience too. Please, if there is any way you can help us, let us graduate the right way…"
Clare, who is graduating from UGA this year, is a supporter of rescheduling commencement. "UGA's graduation is something every 'bulldawg' looks forward to," said the 21-year-old. "I’m honestly still in shock that my senior year was cut short by 2 months and that all of these plans me and my family have been looking forward to for 4 years suddenly aren’t happening."
These cancellations mean some students are left in the dark.
Nayha, 17, knows she's graduating this year, but that's about it.
"I don’t know if [graduating] involves physically walking across the stage or just getting a diploma, but I will graduate," she said. "We have zero clue what is happening with the actual graduation ceremony and prom. Our school hasn’t said anything yet but then again we don’t even know when we will be back at school."
Currently, Nayha is on spring break, but the provincial government in hometown of British Columbia, Canada has said that school will be canceled indefinitely. Because of the large increase in COVID-19 cases in the area, Nayha and her friends are preparing for the worst. "No school dances, no proms, no graduation ceremony," she predicted. As of now though, "everything is up in the air."
Meanwhile, if you live in England, the cancellation of exams is not something to celebrate, it means you can't find out what school you're going to next year. Daisy, 18, lives in Kent, England, and she just had her last day of school on Friday before schools were shut down for the year. On top of that, the government has canceled standardized tests, which means Daisy can't figure out where she's going to university next year. Normally, students in their last year of high school in England would begin taking their A-levels soon. In August, their results would help determine where they would be attending college, but now the students are unable to take those tests.
"Personally, I’m waiting to hear from universities to see what they say," Daisy said, explaining that some of her peers think the colleges will automatically let people in because of the situation, or base admissions off grades given by teachers. As of now, though, the students of England don't know what to expect.
"Basically, everyone my age is freaking out because we don’t know what’s going to happen with colleges, and our teachers don’t know either."
Follow Carolyn on Instagram.
You Might Also Like