Distanced Memories – A Letter From A 2020 Graduate

Senior Year – Homeschool Edition” – these are the words taped on my fridge. Under these words is our remote learning schedule. This simple piece of paper is now what my senior year revolves around. There is no prom, no senior class trip, no scholar-athlete awards ceremony, no Project Graduation – only a piece of paper with my Day 1 and Day 2 schedule on it. 

After three and a half years of hard work and dedication to our school, community, and all things ‘Bobcat Pride,” I imagined I’d be sitting in a lawn chair with my friends eating lunch in The Core. I imagined we would be laughing and talking about practice after school or how much I dreaded walking up three flights of stairs to math class. I imagined our Advisory would enjoy the last weeks of our high school career together. Instead, I am passing the time by sitting in my room on FaceTime with my friends and reminiscing about those exact memories. This is the most bittersweet feeling I have ever had. I know that I am missing out on many ‘senior’ moments but, this time has also made me really reflect on the memories and connections I did have during those three and a half years.

Many high school seniors now live with a sense of uncertainty. No matter if they loved or hated high school, there is a blanket of unknown when it comes to what’s next. Will we have a graduation? Will we go to college? Will we be able to find jobs? When will our lives click the ‘play’ button again? These are the questions that are swirling in the minds of every high school senior. I know that above all, I am trying to focus on the good elements and look back on the positive memories and moments that were made during my high school experience.

For many of us high school seniors, this time of the year is the “pay-off.” College and career decisions have been made, grades have been finalized, and the warm weather ushers in a celebratory mood of excitement. “Fourth quarter of senior year is supposed to be the best part of high school, the big finale, a chance to breathe and pat ourselves on the back, secure in the knowledge that we finally made it,” said Natalie Eddy (‘20). She continued on to say, “we are all supposed to graduate and celebrate together to acknowledge this achievement, and to prove that all of our hard work was worth it.”

An emotion that many are feeling during this time is sadness. Heather Healy, ORHS teacher, Senior Class Advisor, and mother of an Exeter High School senior, has noticed this feeling from many seniors in her life. “They understand that things need to be this way for the safety of all but they feel so sad to miss out on things. They feel robbed of their senior year. They feel cheated out of memories that everyone before them, including parents, have experienced.” Whether it be the traditions that we will never have or the new ones that we are creating, our senior year is definitely one that no one will forget.

When I talked with Eddy, we discussed the strange ‘ending’ that we experienced that last day of high school. The strangest part – there was no ending. In no sense was there closure to that day or the ending of our high school journey. I was told by teachers to, “bring home what you think you will need for a couple weeks.” That weekend is when everything turned and the reality of a ‘normal’ senior year was quickly going away. “I packed up everything in my locker that day after school, and as I closed my locker I had the weirdest feeling… I remember telling my friend who was with me about how I was feeling and her laughing, saying I was just being silly,” Eddy said, expressing a similar feeling to the one I and many others experienced.

Eddy is still optimistic about the chance to have some sort of graduation and celebration with our classmates. “I am confident that although our celebration will be different, it will still be exactly what we are all craving. The faculty and the students at ORHS are passionate and determined, and I know the class of 2020 will all celebrate together in the most uniting and powerful way possible,” she said. 

When I talked with Healy about graduation plans, she was adamant about one thing, some sort of celebration WILL happen for the ORHS class of 2020, in some form at the high school. “I have weekly meetings with Ms. Filippone to talk about what I am getting for feedback from students and what we can move forward with,” she said. Every possibility has been considered and discussed for potential graduation celebration plans. Healy and Filippone have talked with students, parents, teachers, and administrators about potential plans. Healy did note that based on student feedback, they have been given a clear ‘NO’ to a virtual graduation approach. The school now plans on having the ‘ceremony’ in some form at the high school in cars. Healy said that, “it is very important to Ms. Filippone and me that we do something that students want and use any and all resources to make the best thing happen.”

Dylon Thompson, the Senior Class President, has been working with fellow student government officers and the school administration to preserve some senior traditions. “Both administration and the student government have been trying their hardest during this difficult time,” said Thompson. “We have been meeting weekly to try and do our best to make everyone’s quarantine more enjoyable, as well as try to find a graduation alternative,” he added. 

Lily Doody, a senior class senator, said that, “it was all taken away from us so fast. Being a class representative I feel very passionate about celebrating together and I will fight to make that happen.”

Other groups in the school are also doing their part to still maintain some of the senior traditions. The Art Department, along with the help of Oyster River teacher and technology integrator Celeste Best, has worked to put together a digital senior art show – an opportunity that arose after the announcement of the cancellation of the senior art show in a traditional format. Many teachers and staff from the high school have been working hard to preserve as many traditions as possible.

I, for one, am very thankful to all the teachers, staff, and administrators for working hard to make this experience as positive as possible for seniors. This experience, like the rest of my high school experience, is unforgettable. Yes, I will admit this does suck and nobody wants to have a senior year like this, but I continue to maintain a positive mindset. I also encourage other seniors to do the same. Instead of dwelling on what we are losing, I focus on what we had and the memories that were made. Eddy is doing the same by reflecting positively on her experience and being thankful to those who made it what it was – the teachers. She said, “the teachers at Oyster River didn’t just teach me class material, they made me a better learner and person. They taught me how to take risks and they showed me how to believe in myself.” 

As every senior in high school enters the next step in life, I encourage them to reflect and focus on the positives. Instead of remembering what we lost, remember what we had – the memories, the connections, and the joy. 

Artwork by Chloe Jackson (’20)