Wise Words from Our Seniors: Coping with a New Reality

Wise+Words+from+Our+Seniors%3A+Coping+with+a+New+Reality

Tess Brennan

As Governor Tom Wolf announced on April 9 that Pennsylvania schools would be closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year, Radnor students took to Instagram to say their goodbyes. Radnor timelines were filled with cherished memories, and melancholy farewells as seniors accepted the end of their high school career nearly three and one-half months early. Even though online school is continuing, fun activities such as senior prom, graduation, and senior assassin are all in question and cannot be virtualized.  

As the reality of the situation hit, I, as a sophomore, decided to ask the seniors how the news was affecting them and how they were coping. Many of the seniors felt very upset when they heard the news; others had already accepted the fate of the school year when the number of cases began rising. Gedd Constable relayed that, “All of high school had been building up to spring of my senior year, and then it was taken away in the blink of an eye. It still hurts.” Starting in elementary school, we were told how much fun high school would be, as we imagined road trips with friends, senior prom and receiving our high school diplomas in front of all of our family and friends. Kylie Slupe summed up the feelings of many seniors when they heard of the finalization of the school’s closing, saying, “I just felt numb. It didn’t feel real, and it took me a few days to really grasp.”

Senior year was supposed to bring many magical memories. Radnor had many traditions that seniors had been waiting years to experience. Luckily, everyone was able to experience the sacred LM Pep Rally, but sadly the shelter in place had led many to question the possibility of senior prom and graduation. Keara Seasholtz expressed that, “It was to be my last dance with the senior class, and that was something big to look forward to.” Many of the seniors interviewed expressed similar feelings but continue to have hope that sometime this summer, prom will be held.

Not only has the thought of no Senior Prom dawned on the students, but their first official graduation. A graduation unlike all others- not just a moving up ceremony like from elementary or middle school. The idea of spending twelve years with the same group of people and not being able to have proper closure seems inevitable. Gedd Constable mentioned that “The culmination of twelve years together with the same class in school has always seemed really special to me,” so not being able to have proper closure would be devastating.

When the news was first announced, many of the seniors said they felt a mixture of anger, confusion, stress, sadness, and fear. As the lockdown continued, many of the feelings are still there, but they have learned to accept the conditions and try to stay positive. Keara Seasholtz believes, “Everything happens for a reason, and every interaction and experience you have will shape you into who you are,” which is a positive way to look at the situation. Still, sometimes it is not so easy to believe. Kylie Slupe reiterated similar feelings by trying to “focus on the good things.” 

When asked how they thought Radnor schools were handling the sudden shutdown and the pandemic as a whole, only positive responses were given. All felt that Radnor was doing a great job, specifically pertaining to keeping the students in the loop and trying their best to make all of the students happy. Anahita Darvish says she is “very impressed with the grace of the administrators and teachers and how they are handling this,” especially when it comes to learning along with the students how to use online school. Because of the pandemic forcing the school to continue online, Keara Seasholtz gushes that, despite her struggle with online learning, “[the teachers]  have been very accommodating…and they seem to understand [online learning confusion] which is very reassuring.” All in all, the seniors appreciate everything that their teachers and administration are doing for them, and believe they are doing the best that they can.

The responses to the necessity of Governor Wolf’s decision varied. Some constituents felt that ending school early was something that sadly had to be done and others who felt his decision was rushed and not properly thought through. In the opinion of Gedd Constable and Caitlin Higgins, Governor Wolf’s decision was unreasonable. They felt that Governor Wolf made a hasty conclusion. Gedd wondered if “the data he’s getting and basing decisions off of” is reliable although he does understand the concern of the Governor. Caitlin was quite shocked and surprised when she heard as well: “It was very early when he made that decision.”

On the other side of the argument, the rest of the interviewees, though saddened by the decision, fully believed it to be the right one. Kylie Slupe stated that she thinks closing schools helped to eliminate some of the uncertainty that the pandemic has caused and, for this reason, thinks that “knowing schools are closed was helpful for parents and many other people.” Not only does it answer some of the inquisitions of the virus’ severity but it also ensures some feelings of safety. In Keara Seasholtz’s case, “knowing the risks of possibly spreading it to a loved one or giving it to one of my peers,” would have left her uncomfortable while attending school, if quarantine was not enforced.

The whole experience has been like a “cruel joke” for seniors as they had to strain through the first six months of school, which was filled with college decisions, SATs, lots of work, and tests. What kept most of them motivated was the fun events promised for the spring of senior year. Whether the motivation came from the excitement of a final sports season, prom, or the satisfaction of completing work, many believed it would all pay off in the spring.

For Keara Seasholtz, the most devastating part of the quarantine was not having her last season of track. This past winter season, Keara had made indoor states and won first place, and this was only going to push her to work harder and achieve more of her lifetime goals this coming spring season. Keara reminisced, “I remember telling my teammates at the indoor track banquet that I would leave my tears for the spring banquet…I feel like a fool now. I miss my teammates and coach more than anything.”

Anahita Darvish said that the closing of school during her senior year would be something that she will take with her for the rest of her life. Anahita noted that we were nearing the time of year when the seniors truly became seniors, or at least the reality of all of their hard work was starting to sink in. She was most looking forward to, “experiencing numerous rights of passage including college T-shirt day, senior assassin, baccalaureate, and senior bbq.” Almost all of the activities Anahita was most excited about for high school was scheduled for the second semester of senior year; as mentioned before, it was quickly taken away in the blink of an eye.

Not only were school-sanctioned events anticipated, but many students also had been planning trips with their friends since the beginning of the year. They had been waiting through months of hard work to reach the fun moments, only to have everything ripped out from under them all at once. Caitlin Higgins was one senior to mention being saddened by canceled plans but is “remaining hopeful that some senior events will still happen.”

Although the fear of an unsatisfactory senior year hovers over them, the biggest concern from all of the seniors was the potential of infecting loved ones. Not only do students dread missing out on the full high school experience, but the risk of Coronavirus is always there. Preventing them from seeing loved ones and worrying if their parents are essential workers, all while the weeks of quarantine drag on.

The past few months have been scary and troubling enough when it comes to the extreme impact of the Coronavirus. Seniors are worried about their futures—especially concerning their freshman year at college. All expressed the fear of missing out on the once in a lifetime experiences of the senior year. Gedd Constable, who is going to Richmond, was concerned that an extended quarantine would have “implications on my college experience.” Just as a shortened senior year strongly affected the senior class’ memories of high school, attending online classes the first semester of college could ruin the independence and and feeling of new beginnings that a first semester college freshman is supposed to have.

Caitlin Higgins, who is committed to Syracuse, conveyed a similar concern: “If colleges continue to do online school during the first semester, I would be devastated.” Many students still had the critical decision to make of which college to attend when quarantine began and had to cancel flights and instead participate in a virtual tour, making the choice more difficult.

Other valid concerns were communicated by Kylie Slupe, who is committed to Pitt, such as the fear that “[quarantine] will last through the summer and [she] won’t be able to spend time with [her] friends before we leave for college.”

Another essential aspect that has been brought to the attention of students is the inherent relationship between school and the development of friendships. Going to school five days a week and getting into the routine of catching up with certain people is no longer taken for granted now that we are stuck at home and doing online school. Also, because it would be idiotic to leave the house, regular hangouts on the weekends have disappeared altogether.

The seniors interviewed said that their friendships have taken on a new form while being stuck in the house. People like Kylie Slupe have found alternatives to meeting up with friends such as Zoom or Netflix Party: “It’s fun to talk to them, but it’s not the same.” It is hard to be completely satisfied or happy talking to your friends online while sitting alone in your room, and anger about the state of the world is eventually worked into the conversation.

Going to school also allows kids to make new friends, primarily due to the many choices of classes. But now, due to quarantine, those smaller friendships have started to slip away. Keara Seasholtz brought up, “I miss all of my smaller friendships…and interacting with people in my classes even if I’m not close friends with them.” As quarantine stretches on, all one can do is think about the little things.

Now that quarantine has been going on for five weeks, the seniors have found ways to cope. The most common response was getting outside and staying active, predominantly through endless amounts of family walks. “Trying to stay positive and hopeful for the next few months,” is a significant way that Kylie Slupe is getting through quarantine, which is an essential message that everyone should try to practice during this time.

Although there have been some difficult days spent reminiscing about all of the good times that have been put on hold, taking time to keep a positive mindset can make all of the difference. One way to do this is to stay in contact with friends through Facetime. Caitlin Higgins also says she has been, “trying to distract [herself] by getting [her] school work done and watching lots of Netflix.”

In addition to the positive attitudes, seniors admit that they have found some beneficial aspects to the quarantine. Now that people are only supposed to leave the house when it is necessary, this has helped many of the seniors incorporate family time into their daily lives. Kylie Slupe made a valuable point that quarantine ensures her “more time with [her] family before [she] leaves in a few months” for college. Family time was a recurring answer when it comes to the enjoyable side of the shut down; additionally, the hours of free time have also opened up the doors to new passions or the reintroducing of old hobbies. As mentioned before, enjoying and recalling the little things has become a daily part of quarantine. The seniors have taken time to enjoy family walks, art, music, baking, and so much more—all the while promising never to forget their love for Radnor High School and the Class of 2020.