High school seniors are having an unusual end to their senior year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
Graduation ceremonies have moved online, or to mountain tops or drive-in movie theaters, and many colleges don’t know how or when their campuses will reopen
NHPR’s All Things Considered Host Peter Biello interviewed three graduating high school seniors: Chloe Armstrong from Kennett High School in North Conway, Kimiya Parker-Hill from Manchester West High School in Manchester, and Shannon Jackson from Coe-Brown Northwood Academy in Northwood.
Note: The following transcript is lightly edited for clarity
Let’s talk about how the pandemic has changed your senior year.
KIMIYA PARKER-HILL: Yes, so our last day of school was March 13, and our prom was canceled, and our graduation date was pushed back.
SHANNON JACKSON: We didn't have a prom, we didn't even have a graduation, we just had a live-streamed reading of all the names, basically.
CHLOE ARMSTRONG: We were lucky enough to have a graduation this past weekend ... at our
local ski mountain. We took the chair lift up, and the principal and the superintendent were at the top, and they read the names and you took your pictures and went back down, which was amazing. We weren’t really sure if we were going to get a graduation or not. We did not get prom, but the fact that we managed to pull together something as a community for graduation was really great.
I want to ask about the schooling that you all received when we went remote, how do you feel about it, do you feel like the quality of education you received was just as good, or did it lack something for you?
PARKER-HILL: There were a lot of teachers that just didn't know how to pace the amount of work they were posting, and so we would get bombarded with assignments, and it became a lot. So the principal had to kind of step in and say, “okay, just take this week, it’s make-up week, and just everybody take a deep breath.”
JACKSON: Zoom calls really just don't do it for me, I guess, and it was just really hard to find a time for everybody to get together. My school had a policy where you couldn't have a Zoom call be required, in case someone was working or something.
ARMSTRONG: I think I learned just the same amount, however, that varied from person to person depending on what you do. All of our Zoom calls were mandatory, so if you were a student working, you’re not going to have the same quality as just a student who’s home all day, and I think that's really important to recognize as well.
What was it like to not see your friends in person for this whole length of time?
ARMSTRONG: It’s been really difficult not seeing anybody, especially when there’s students in your school that are actively breaking quarantine, and just from the start post on social media about being with all their friends. And you’re just trying to be responsible.
Seeing your classmates just doing their regular things and feeling like you’re missing out on experiences was definitely really difficult.
And you worked as well, right Chloe? You were working at a restaurant?
ARMSTRONG: Yeah, I worked at Flatbread Company. Most of my friends, honestly, I met through that job, and once quarantine hit I was let go until we are able to reopen, which was really difficult.
What about you, Kimiya? What was it like to not be able to hang out with your friends for the last few months of school?
PARKER-HILL: Yeah so, for me, not only am I really close with my friends and I’ve been close with them since middle school, I’m involved in a lot, and so it was really hard not being able to meet face to face and just experience it all together.
I’d love to hear your insights about what’s next for you, now that you’ve graduated:
ARMSTRONG: I’m enrolled in St. Lawrence University in upstate New York, and we haven't really heard anything from the university as far as whether it will be on campus or not. So we’re just kind of playing it by ear, as far as how the state itself reopens.
I see, and of course, a couple months from now who knows what things will look like. And how about you, Shannon? What are your plans for the fall?
JACKSON: So in the fall I’m attending McGill University in Montreal, Canada. So far, I’ll be staying on campus. Since I have a study permit I am considered essential and can go over the border, but my mother can't come with me and I can't have a car on campus. So, I’m trying to figure out currently, how I’m going to move into my dorm without a car and getting over a country border.
Well I’d like to ask you all, what advice you’ll have for next year’s class of seniors, especially if they have to be, maybe even partly remote learners?
PARKER-HILL: Try to take deep breaths and don’t stress too much over the situation that you can't control.
ARMSTRONG: You know what I had to recognize this year and what I think a lot of seniors are going to have to recognize is kind of, meeting yourself where you’re at. It’s been a lot of struggle for people to accept that they can't necessarily balance everything.
Take a step back and look at what you're doing, and realize that the fact that you’re doing anything at all is really just what makes you special, and what makes you a strong student.