An emotional year

Adam Pardee / Tribune

High school seniors have not had an easy time this year. From spending hours on Zoom classes in isolation to walking a socially distanced graduation ceremony, it seemed as though there were few opportunities to experience the things that typically make senior year special.

“At the end, you finally get to have that big moment where you’re being celebrated and you’re just having the best time of your life,” said graduated Terra Nova senior Nikka McGahan. “I think that has a lot of significance in the sphere of high school culture.”

At Terra Nova High School, there was no prom. Instead, the student government put on a “Mask and Mingle,” bringing in taco and churro trucks for seniors to enjoy. The event was hardly a substitute — some students dressed casually and no dancing was allowed. But for valedictorian Jenson Ho, the event was a chance to see his friends in-person, something that had been rare for the past year. As the year came to a close and COVID-19 vaccination increased, Ho and his friends decided to put on their own prom, dressing up and going out for dinner outside of school.

“Traditions have kind of devolved into a hang out with your friends,” said Ho. “You and your friends schedule what you would want to do instead.”

Oceana High School also hosted their own alternative to prom — an outdoor movie night where students brought their own blankets and enjoyed each other’s company. The movie night was such a success that it is set to become its own tradition for the future, something that may have never happened if not for the pandemic.

“That turned into a really nice get-together,” said Alison Luo, who was originally head of the prom committee. “Although it wasn’t a real prom, it did feel more inclusive and like a community for one last time.”

Senior class adviser and humanities and film analysis teacher Christopher Korp said that after the difficult year, seniors weren’t expecting much in terms of school-sponsored activities. In-person rallies were canceled, and a senior exhibition showcasing students’ yearlong research projects took place online. An annual senior trip to Great America was also lost.

For student government President Reanne Ocampo, being a part of student leadership felt bittersweet. While they weren’t able to carry out traditional festivities for seniors, she’s grateful that they adapted and did what they could for their peers.

“To me, it feels like my senior year just began. I returned back to school for the last six days and I was finally getting a sense of normalcy,” said Ocampo in an email. “I was still thankful enough to graduate and be a part of the Oceana community.”

Luo agrees that the determination and motivation from fellow seniors was what got them through the year. Together, they were able to acknowledge a less-than-ideal situation and persevere.

“I was grateful for how the senior class pulled through in the end,” Luo said. “Even though these events weren’t the events we were hoping for, we were able to use the opportunity and get through it.” 

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