The Class of 2020 and the Pandemic

Reporter Sam Brook's opinions about the class of 2020's experience during the pandemic and what it means going forward.

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Jazmin Carrillo Morales

A group of seniors converse via Zoom meeting weeks into the pandemic to make up for lost time at school.

Sam Brook, Managing Editor

From online classes and pass or fail grading to missing out on countless senior experiences, the class of 2020 is currently experiencing a senior year unlike any other in history. We are turning our tassels on Zoom and picking up our diplomas in cars, a situation we never could have foreseen.

In March, on Friday the 13th, Woodside seniors unceremoniously left campus for what would be their last time. I know I was thinking “well, maybe this could be a nice little break.” Little did I know the shutdown would extend past our graduation date, ending high school as we knew it. This sounds dark, but the truth is it did become a very sad thing as dates got extended and the future remained unknown.

From the blue light of our screens, we read headlines about rising death tolls and increasing unknowns about a mysterious but growing virus. While the world seemed to spiral into an apocalypse, we watched the circumstances magnify socioeconomic inequalities and put the lives of many people at risk. In comparison to the terrible events occurring worldwide, the loss of our graduation and the events surrounding it may seem minute, but after 12 years working up to a celebration of our educational feat, a sense of loss is still felt with the class of 2020.

In his commencement speech as part of the Graduate Together event, Obama said it best: “Just as you’re about to celebrate having made it through, just as you’ve been looking forward to proms and senior nights, graduation ceremonies, and let’s face it, a whole bunch of parties, the world is turned upside down by a global pandemic.”

One thing that slightly changed my outlook was realizing that we truly are all in this together. Every student in every class of 2020 in the country, whether they are graduating high school or college, is feeling this loss. I witnessed my class turn this around and look on the bright side. I saw Snapchat stories with videos of graduates finding ways to celebrate safely and even comedic plays on the reality of our class. I saw people from Woodside coming together via Zoom and through social distancing get-togethers to support one other amid all the craziness. Despite the many losses and challenging adjustments, we, the class of 2020, are proving to prevail through this tough time.

Just as you’re about to celebrate having made it through, just as you’ve been looking forward to proms and senior nights, graduation ceremonies, and let’s face it, a whole bunch of parties, the world is turned upside down by a global pandemic.”

— Barak Obama

Then, another slap of reality came to those in the class of 2020 seeking higher education. For me, this meant a reevaluation of my options, and I ended up heading in a way different direction with college than I could have expected. The economic effects of the pandemic are taking graduating seniors’ options away and changing our plans. Colleges are stingier with money, and that leaves the incoming class at the bottom of the totem pole. Will we get to go to college in the fall or will half (or more) of our freshman year in college be taken from us as well? As of now, this remains unknown.

Still, my class is pushing through. For a time, Churchill Avenue was decorated with many colorful chalk drawings of college logos and mascots in a movement started completely by students. Students are decorating their caps to celebrate their university plans and show off their artistic skills. There is an Instagram account (@whs2020timecapsule) making individual posts for seniors about their-post graduation plans. Renowned people and role models for many of us are speaking directly to the class of 2020 via social media.

A Woodside senior decorates her graduation cap to celebrate her future plans going to college. (Stephanie Gerson)

Luckily, despite the many restrictions, Woodside admin and teachers have made efforts to find other ways to congratulate our class. I was wary at first, but then a friend of mine from the South Bay told me that her school’s administrators had not communicated to her class once until a week ago. This put things into perspective for me. Our school’s staff cares about us, and I was able to see that after a little reality check. Despite it not being the graduation ceremony that any of us pictured, I am still grateful and excited to decorate my car and drive through Woodside to pick up my diploma.

Beyond the losses we have faced, the pandemic has not changed the fact that each and every one of us has overcome challenges to get to where we are now and we should be proud of ourselves for reaching this milestone. We are still high school graduates even if we don’t get to walk the stage.

One thing I know for sure is that this pandemic will have a huge effect on our lives as young adults going forward into the world. We are the generation that is going to make change.

In the Graduate Together video, actress Yara Shandi even remarks, “When I think of the class of 2020 I think of a quote from one of my inspirations, author James Baldwin: ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.’” This quote feels like our motor because what has been the most extraordinary during these uncertain times is that you have continued to push forward.”

After this, you guys are prepared for anything.”

— LeBron James

The world has thrown constant curveballs at our class and generation as a whole but we have striven beyond these difficulties and grown into who we are in the process. As LeBron James says in Graduate Together, “After this, you guys are prepared for anything.”

 

To watch the full Graduate Together video, which I refer to multiple times, click here.