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Sad ending to high school careers for seniors

South Boston News
Clockwise from top left: Ethan Long, Jada Younger, Peyton Gilbert, Nicholas Harris, Grace Langford and Amaya Mitchell.
SoVaNow.com / March 26, 2020
Many students relish any chance to get out of school — snowstorms, holidays or flooding.

However, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s unprecedented decision to close schools for the rest of the school year to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has saddened many Halifax County High School seniors, who had planned to walk across the stage on May 23 in cap and gown.

“It’s horrible but I do understand why they closed school, to prevent the spread of a deadly virus that could affect thousands of people,” said Nicholas Harris. “I’m going to miss seeing everyone at school, honestly. I have friends that are seniors, and upperclassmen and underclassmen,”

Peyton Gilbert agreed: “It’s necessary, but it’s a little frustrating. Some people need to realize that people’s lives are at stake.”

For many students, the shut-down on March 13 marked the last time they were able to be in class with their friends or instructors.

“We didn’t even get to say a proper goodbye to our teachers, many of whom were role models for us,” said Ethan Long.

Amaya Mitchell noted that her high school friends are old friends: “I’ve grown up around the same people my entire life,” she said. “We gotta stop taking things for granted, because none of us had any clue that that would be our very last day of high school together.”

Despite assurances from the Virginia Department of Education, there are also fears about graduation. Gilbert said, “It’s frustrating that we can’t get our diplomas as soon as we usually would.”

For nursing students like Mitchell, the path to get licensed may become longer or more complicated. Two or three times a week, she and other nursing students visited nursing homes to help care for residents as part of their clinicals. The clinicals are something that Mitchell enjoyed, and they are also necessary for students to receive certification. Because of Coronavirus fears, the homes are allowing fewer visitors, and the nursing students cannot do their clinicals.

“It’s been a whole year, and we were at the very end,” Mitchell says of her quest to enter the healthcare field. Now unsure of when she can receive her license, she said, “we’re taking it day by day and playing it by ear. We worked really hard to get it.”

In addition to curricular and diploma concerns, there is also sadness over missing the pomp, circumstance and traditions that fill the spring semester.

“It’s a bummer because we’re supposed to have our senior banquet this week, two games of soccer this week, and prom in three weeks,” Harris said. “I haven’t bought my prom stuff yet, but I know people who bought $200 or $300 prom dresses, and now they can’t even wear it or use it.”

Jada Younger, a member of the Cometbots robotics team, was unable to attend prom last year and no longer has a chance this year. “Last year when we had prom, I was on the robotics team so I went to prom in Detroit,” she said, referring to the prom that was put on for members of robotics teams at the Robotics World Championship who missed their hometown proms in spring of 2019.

Many seniors still have online classes to keep them busy, and — thanks to technology — still keep in touch daily with friends and classmates.

Yet, the unprecedented closure still stings for the Class of 2020.

“I feel like we didn’t get the full experience of senior year like everyone else did,” Grace Langford lamented.



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