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Rites of Passage Gone Awry 

What it's like being a senior amidst the pandemic

It was the first day of high school, that telltale dreaded 24 hours of nerves, expectations and inevitable disappointment. My heart fluttered as I gripped the straps of my backpack and crossed the building's threshold. I was a little fish in a big pond again, the bottom of the totem pole. 

I was told freshman year that high school would fly by: "It'll be over before you know it," people would say with a melancholy gleam of sentiment. But nobody warned me that time does indeed fly amidst a global pandemic. At the beginning of quarantine, I was eternally grateful for the blessing of a junior year cut short. The allure of 45-minute AP tests and decreased cortisol levels was well worth the sacrifice of junior prom. Seven months later, I'm reminiscing over tardy bells and assigned seats. Instead of being top dog on campus, finally reaping the well-deserved benefits of my struggle through adolescence, my senior year is plagued by patchy internet and a constant yearn for human interaction. 

The author, Jess McComb, in her senior photo. - GARY BRUCE
  • Gary Bruce
  • The author, Jess McComb, in her senior photo.

"The class of 2021 will never really get the true high school experience. Every aspect of the high school experience comes junior and senior years when we're the starters on every team; we are the captains, the leaders, the presidents, the student council," said senior Harper Justema. "Senior season was going to be my second year as captain of the volleyball team but there is little to no chance that we will be playing at all. Definitely one or two tears have been shed."

"I think my senior year was super valuable," said 2019 graduate Tatum Elshire. "I felt I got the chance to experience everything I wanted in Bend and at Summit. Even though I had a gnarly case of senioritis, the connections I made and groups I belonged to kept me rolling out of bed and into the crowded halls. Even though I had a countdown app on my phone for the days until graduation, I wouldn't erase any of the messy days of senior year."

With the constraints of social distancing, the highest hope for school spirit is senior skip day, which most of us do weekly, thanks to the unreliability of BendBroadband.

click to enlarge Summit High Senior, Harper Justema. - CHRIS SHUNK
  • Chris Shunk
  • Summit High Senior, Harper Justema.

"I personally like being at school and hanging out with people," said Justema. "I'm not necessarily a person who romanticizes high school. Missing out on experiences like school dances and graduation is not something I am going to lose sleep over, but it is definitely a let-down. I will probably never get to experience prom or a real high school graduation and that's super disappointing."

Nevermind the sappy sentimental experiences, senior year is the last call for students to prove their potential to college admissions. Aidan Ramsthel recently opened up about the struggles of online school and his own personal concerns about his GPA.

"My freshman and sophomore years I just messed around and didn't do super well in school. I only started grinding junior year. I got a 4.0 first semester and was hoping to continue that trend...but it ended up being pass/fail," said Ramsthel. "I was definitely pretty disappointed by this. My second semester grades would have been a really positive addition to my GPA and would have increased my college admission chances. Senior year was my last shot for the final GPA boost, but school doesn't feel like an important thing anymore. In-person school is super in-your-face...but online school is super easy to ignore. I have three missing assignments in Biology that I didn't even know were due."

Ramsthel isn't the only one who has been academically challenged by the pandemic. Justema is also worried that she won't be able to maintain the 4.0 that is required of her to maintain admission into Columbia University. Along with this, she has experienced severe obstacles in the field of standardized testing.

"I was supposed to take the SAT again this year to boost my previous score, but all four of the tests I signed up for have been canceled. I am now taking the test in Boise in November—meaning that I will be driving 12 hours just to retake a test that I'm not guaranteed to improve on," said Justema. "My score is good enough to get into college, but I need a higher score in order to make college more affordable for my family."

The limitations of online school and virtual college touring combined with sports seasons cut short and school dances suspended has successfully made senior year the worst on record. Class of 2020, you have some competition.

Jess McComb is a Senior at Summit High School and Features Editor of the Pinnacle Newspaper. This piece first appeared in the Pinnacle Newspaper.

About The Author

Jess McComb

Jess McComb is an intern at the Source Weekly but she'd like to pretend she's a full time employee. Her current occupation is high school but she prefers the title 'journalist.' Hobbies include: being the best female skier on the Mountain, color coordinating outfits, obsessively working out and bragging about...
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