It’s graduation season. For Abington High School seniors, traditionally around this time they would be boarding buses, donned in their caps and gown, to partake in the ceremonial Senior Stroll — that final walk through their each of their schools from years past, with their former teachers and younger students cheering them on wishing them well.
The younger classes watching them in awe getting a glimpse of what it will be like when they make their final stroll. The seniors relish this time as perhaps they would see their kindergarten teacher that taught them how to sit criss-cross apple sauce. Or the school nurse who bandaged their skinned knees when they took a tumble on the playground. Or the music or art teacher, where they developed a love of every musical note or every brush stroke. Maybe the elementary school custodian who always made them laugh and knew everyone’s name. The middle school math teacher who helped students who were struggling over their equation problems, while calmly reassuring them they were smarter than they think. Or the spring baseball coach who made sure they stuck with it and found a love for the game. Or the cafeteria folks that made the best chicken bowl with a smile.
But not this year. This year the halls and buses are empty. With graduation postponed until August, even then students are left wondering if it will actually take place.
In Abington, little did seniors know their last day in an Abington classroom would be March 12th. The COVID-19 pandemic halted the nation and, in a sense, robbed seniors of the traditional closure of this season in their lives. Their reactions have ranged from sadness, disappointment, confusion and raw emotion.
“Initially when I heard the news I wasn’t surprised,” said Cam Curney.
“But, reflecting on missing the end of my senior year, it does sting. I realized I was going to lose all those daily social interactions at school and in Ultimate Frisbee. Interactions that I really love.”
“When I first heard that schools were closed for the remainder of the year I was devastated,” added Erin McDermott, another Abington High School senior.
“Throughout my four years of school, I have always looked up to seniors on their last month, and saw how fun they had and how they got to gradually say goodbye to this chapter in their life, but that chance was taken away from me.”
Fellow classmate Sophia Villano, echoed Curney and McDermott’s sentiments: “My initial reaction was that I was very upset and I knew I couldn’t do all the senior activities, I just felt gypped. But I also knew it was for the better and for the health of everyone.”
Seniors who also participated in spring sports and other activities said losing those opportunities as well simply added to the disappointment.
“The basketball state championship was canceled, as was the entirety of the spring Ultimate Frisbee season,” said Curney.
“Both experiences I had been looking forward to for at least a year, were stripped away quite painfully. But, I do agree it was the smartest decision.”
“I am involved in all-star cheerleading which was ended abruptly,” said McDermott.
“All of my competitions were canceled and no one is allowed in the gym. It was my final year of cheerleading at East Celebrity Elite and I never got to finish it.”
While adjusting to the cancellations, came challenge of online learning. Seniors had different reactions.
“By the time I heard school would be canceled for the remainder of the year, I think I had already come to terms with the end of in-person learning being a real possibility,” said Curney.
“Online learning itself isn’t too difficult, it’s just not nearly as enjoyable as in person at school,” he said. “For instance, in school I would go to different classes, I’d see and chat with people in the halls, I’d show up late to class occasionally. It was fun being at school and being around people I liked.
“I just don’t really get that vibe doing work from my laptop at home. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love being around my brother, my mom and dad, but they obviously aren’t taking the same courses as me. So I feel a lot less connected to the work then I had before.”
“Personally, I hate it and I don’t think I’ve adjusted that well to it,” added Villano. “I feel like it’s just easier if someone is there to actually teach me and sometimes there is just an overload of work.”
“I have adjusted very well to online learning, but is not my ideal state for school but it will work,” added McDermott. “The hardest struggle for me is finding a quiet place to work with no distractions. I found that my room was the best for those requirements.”
Along with online learning, students have been keeping in touch with fellow classmates online as well.
“We text a little bit, phone calls, Zoom calls, Xbox and PS4 parties,” said Curney. “Much of the same things we did before, just obviously a lot more of it.”
“My friends and I have stayed connected through Zoom and Microsoft teams,” said McDermott. “We watch movies through Netflix party and sometimes we just want to see each other’s faces.”
With plans of social distancing protocols to be in place, Abington High School seniors are asked to report to school June 4 and 5 at specific times in order for students to clean out lockers, drop off laptops, as well as pick up graduation caps and gowns. Seniors were also asked to remember to wear a mask. The feelings were mixed, when thinking about returning to school.
“I think I’m going to be apprehensive of being in close contact with people anywhere,” said Curney.
“I am excited to see some people who I might not see after we graduate, but I’m also probably going to be a little bit sad,” added Villano.
“I know it will be an emotional day because it will be the last time that I will walk my school halls and see my teachers again,” said McDermott. “My parents are coming with me to be there for me if I do need them, because I know that it well be very emotional and very hard.”
There is a Parade of Graduation/Senior Cruise scheduled for Saturday, June 6. Seniors can decorate their cars at home then meet up at the middle/high school for a special cross-town motorcade at 10 a.m. The parade route and details are still being determined.
Abington High School seniors are collectively disappointed that the traditional graduation in June was postponed. But thankful it has not been cancelled.
“I feel like in August we will be clear to have an actual ceremony and I really hope that we do because I feel like that’s the one thing everyone wants,” said Villano.
“I am nervous about graduation, but I think the ideal situation that could happen is my parents could be there and some relatives and I could walk the stage with my friends,” said McDermott.
The rite of passage of that senior stroll may be gone, but seniors know that it’s hard to forget someone who gave you so much to remember.
“I know that I will be talking to my cheerleading coach and art teacher,” said McDermott. “Those two teachers had a big impact on me during my high school career, and I think I will want to know how they are doing and let them know how I am doing.”
“I’d love to return to some cross country, basketball and Ultimate Frisbee practices,” said Curney. “I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know all of my coaches very well and they as well as my club advisors all had a huge impact on my high school career.”
The Class of 2020 will always remember this particular year as life-changing. Just as they were born during the 9/11 era and knew to “never forget”. Perseverance is in their makeup, a life skill that will help them succeed in the future.
“This pandemic has taken too many things from so many people,” said McDermott. “Seniors are not trying to get the most attention–we are just looking for support. This can become our story that we tell our kids and grandkids. Do not take this time for granted.”
“I think it’s still an extremely exciting time of year for everyone in the Class of 2020,” said Curney. “We’re all preparing to move into the next chapter of our lives, we’re going to get to meet a lot of new people, do a lot of new things.
“We’re almost real adults. Despite the global pandemic, we’ve still got a lot to be happy about, and a lot to be proud of.”
Written by Michele Christian, who also has two Abington Class of 2020 graduates.