For the average high school student, the final months of their senior year are what makes their hard work over the previous 12 years worth it. But for the Class of 2020, things are different. This year, there will be no traditional class trips or senior proms, barbecues or celebration nights.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused schools to be shut down in mid-March, the final months of high school have been unsettling for the Class of 2020.
For many school districts across America, graduation will take place in some form or another, but it won’t be what previous high school seniors experienced, including here in Bossier Parish.
This year, Bossier Schools will be “Bringing it Home,” by giving the Class of 2020 a chance to return to their high schools where it all began and say a proper goodbye as they mark the end of their K-12 academic journey.
“What I will take away from my senior year is how it has taught this class to expect the unexpected, and I feel like it will really help when we go into college,” said Abby Johnson, Benton High school senior.
Despite the unprecedented changes, members of the Class of 2020 are trying to stay positive.
“I feel like I learned a lot about patience and being able to say ‘no’ to things that would put too much pressure on me,” said Koehn Farrell, Haughton High School senior.
The things they’ve lost
When schools throughout the state closed in March, many high school seniors looked at the closure as a welcome extension of spring break. They didn’t know it would be their last day as traditional high school students.
“It was kinda funny because we were all out on spring break, so we had no idea that the last day before spring break was our last day. And then before spring break ended we heard that we couldn’t go back to school, which was a huge shock,” said Johnson. “Our emotions hearing the news that we weren’t going back to school came in stages. One was disappointment. When the news got out that seniors wouldn’t be able to graduate traditionally, you see all these celebrities and everybody online trying to make it up to this graduating class. Then all of sudden you’re united with every single 17-18 year old in the world, which is super cool.”
When Gov. John Bel. Edwards announced that schools would remain closed at least throughout the rest of the school year, the loss really began to sink in.
“When I found out that school would be finished for the year, I was happy and sad. I had a lot of friends in high school and all of them were supportive of me. But I know I’ll always miss being around them,” said Farrell.
In previous years, Bossier Parish students celebrated their graduation commencement ceremony with family and friends at the CenturyLink Center. But because of restrictions associated with COVID-19, Bossier schools seized the opportunity to schedule outdoor ceremonies at each high school’s stadium.
“My immediate thought is your whole life you build up to this. You always expected that your whole family and grandparents would come see you. But my grandparents are elderly and I don’t want to risk their health. Then you get an email saying you can only bring your immediate family. But my immediate family is five other people. So it is kinda sad that my whole family can’t see me walk across the stage,” said Johnson.
“I feel going back to my high school will allow for more nostalgia but I would have loved the CenturyLink Center because then we wouldn’t be sweating to death,” said Farrell.
A positive of the pandemic, Johnson said, is it has given her time to slow down and enjoy spending time with family and friends before leaving for college.
“I’m going to go to Louisiana Tech to major in Marketing and Business. I think all of this has made us going to college more excited, because we have had such a long summer now, said Johnson. “I think we are all anxious to get back into a routine and start the new phase in our lives.”
Farrell’s future plans include the United States military.
“My plan for college is to enlist in the Air Force Reserve and attend LATech to study Cyber Engineering so I can enlist into the active duty Air Force as an officer,” said Farrell.
For the Class of 2020, their high school careers will end the same way it began: with each other.
“I feel like a lot of people think that we’re sitting in our rooms and upset about all of this,” Johnson said. “But in general I think we are disappointed, but we are not upset. How could we be upset about not going to prom when people are sick and on ventilators? We’re just excited to go into the next stage of our lives.”
These times have also created a sense of thankfulness among the students.
“Thank you to my parents who have stuck by me through everything. To my friends, thank you for making me the man I’m becoming. And to my fellow seniors, I would like to say we’ve come a long way and we have a long way to go, but I’m proud of all of you,” said Farrell.