Seniors say goodbye to high school at a distance

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Photo submitted by Josh Meitz.

A photo from Meitz's senior project documenting COVID-19.

The class of 2020 is experiencing a senior year unlike any in recent history in the U.S. With the world in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors have been affected by this unexpected and unprecedented event. Senior Amelia Batson, like the rest of the United States, didn’t realize the impact COVID-19 would have on her life until it happened.

“Social distancing and distance learning has definitely made the end of my high school career much different than I expected. I didn’t know that the Friday before spring break would be my last day at [St. Paul Academy] with my teachers and friends. So, now I’ve had to say goodbye to teachers over google hangouts which has been a strange ending. But, I’m planning to come back and visit SPA again next year once everything is back to normal to say ‘hi’ to my teachers and thank them,” Batson said.

Though this experience has been tough, many seniors are putting more effort into connecting with others in unconventional ways. Google Hangout, Zoom, and Facetime have been common ways seniors have kept the SPA community alive. Senior Josh Meitz has utilized technology to say the goodbyes he would have said on campus.

“Social distancing and distance learning has left me and my phone to become great friends as I try to stay in touch with my peers and friends at school. It has been challenging to say goodbye with a simple text or even a call, but I am making the best of what I have been given. I am taking it day by day, outside of course, and visiting my friends from a safe distance,” Meitz said.

Meitz hasn’t only been connecting online though, he is collaborating with fellow SPA senior Henry Burton on his senior project.

“My senior project has allowed me to get out and do something I am passionate about, biking. I am biking around the Twin Cities and documenting the effects of COVID-19,” Meitz said.

Like Meitz, Batson has gotten creative with ways she can continue to connect with peers in person and online.

“I’ve seen a few of my friends for social distance picnics or to go hammocking, and it’s nice to see them in person and talk with them,” Batson said, “I’m part of a crafting group with about seven or eight other girls in the senior class, and for the month of May, we’ve been getting together for an hour Monday through Friday via Google Hangouts to do a variety of creative activities [like] making friendship bracelets, baking food, [and] making photo compilations. This has been another nice way to connect with my classmates and do something fun together.”

Among the senior traditions lost or altered due to the pandemic and Minnesota’s stay at home orders is graduation, arguably one of the most important events in one’s high school career. This year graduation will essentially have three parts. There will be an online ceremony, a scheduled time for seniors to go into the school to get their diploma and take a photo with their diploma, and a car parade around the Randolph campus with teachers.

“I’m definitely sad that we can’t have a traditional graduation because it is something I was really looking forward to,” Batson said, “However, I think that SPA’s proposed plan is good given the circumstances. I like that we still get to come to campus to take our photo and get a diploma, and I think the car procession with all of the students and teachers after the live-streamed ceremony will be fun.”

For some people the loss of in person graduation is less important than the loss of in person graduation parties. Senior Sameer Bijwadia is one of these people as he has fond memories of going to them when he was younger.

“I will definitely miss the graduation parties… I remember tagging along with my siblings as they attended their classmates’ grad parties, and I remember them being fun and happy. I think they’ll be replaced by online Facetime calls and small gatherings with friends in real life, which is different but okay in my opinion,” Bijwadia said.

Overall, this end to the class of 2020”s senior year just doesn’t feel the same. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all bad.

“[COVID-19] has certainly shaken the end of high school up, but I don’t think it’s necessarily impacting us seniors the worst. The events that are being canceled or postponed are allowing us to delay saying goodbye to each other, which is kind of nice in a way,” Bijwadia said.

The class of 2020 has and will have an experience no other graduating class at SPA has had and though many seniors are disappointed, it will be an extremely memorable end to their high school experience.