The final semester for the Class of 2020 is in the books and one for the books.
COVID-19 made its entrance onto the world stage and changed the blueprint for everything. When it’s your senior year of high school and you inevitably have senioritis, you think of closing the door on a chapter, making lasting memories and coasting until graduation.
You don’t think of a global health pandemic, social distancing, shelter-in-place, wearing a mask, all of your courses going online, prom and all other events being canceled, limiting family at graduation and more.
And you don’t think of all of it happening in a matter of weeks.
Of course the unexpected events we encounter in life will challenge us. You take them, the disappointment, brush yourself off and keep going. I spoke with one senior in particular about her experience.
Miss Ashley Wingo, a senior at Spring Hill High School.
Miss Wingo is a flutist with the Blue Brigade, talented twirler, golfer, student, daughter, sister, employee, friend, girlfriend; someone with responsibilities and big plans for her future. I sat down “with” her over a Zoom meeting and this is what transcribed:
- What high school do you attend? Spring Hill High School.
- What activities are you a part of? I play the flute in the band, twirling for Spring Hill and competitive twirling that is separate from school, and golf.
- What events have been canceled for the activities you are a part of? All of our golf tournaments like district, regionals and state were canceled when school was canceled for the year. Our spring concert and concert contest for band was canceled. All of my competitive competitions for twirling were canceled. Twirling at school was finished in the fall. We had state coming up after graduation but I was already going to miss that.
- What does it feel like to be missing milestone events, such as the senior prom? Prom was supposed to be April 18th and they moved it to May 2nd, but then they officially canceled it. It’s upsetting for me. I really wanted to go to my senior prom and to have the pictures to show future kids. That is what has bothered me the most, because I have always thought about that. My boyfriend and me are going to do that when our schedules line up and can take pictures. My best friend, too.
- What types of emotions are you experiencing due to all of the changes due to the health crisis? At the beginning it was sad and we didn’t know what was going on. In the beginning when things were getting postponed we were more affected by it, but now we expect it. I think I’ve experienced almost every emotion you can have during this time. It’s more of a surprise now if we get anything “normal” at all.
Did you ever get really overwhelmed? At first we treated it like an extended spring break; when they said we were doing school online for 8 weeks and when everyone was like “we can’t go back to school” is when it overwhelmed me. “When they said we couldn’t go back at all.” And all of the talk of no graduation; it all happened at one time.
- Is there something that you did this year that if you knew it would’ve been your last time doing it, would you have done it differently? I would have changed how I spent my last day at school; all I remember from that day is that I took a nap on the floor in English. So that’s my last memory from high school in the building. I would have done that differently; I wouldn’t have taken a nap.
- How are your parents handling missing activities that you are involved in and things that would close out those activities? I think they are hurting more than they let on. I think they are sad, they just aren’t showing it as much.
- Did you have any experience with taking online classes prior to all your courses being moved online? I took Speech online my junior year. Doing high school classes is different. I am taking two college courses right now through Kilgore College; Statistics and Economics.
- How has it been with everything being online? When I do school work, I do better if I write it down, especially Math. Everything is better if I write it down. So with it being online, it’s like double the work. A lot of people feel like we aren’t learning stuff, we are just getting a grade. It’s still really weird for us but we know how to work everything.
“We would all rather be in school than doing it on our phones. “
- What are the plans for your graduation? My graduation will be May 29 at 8 PM at the football field and we each get four tickets.
- What does it feel like to be missing out on a normal graduation? I am the only one in my family graduating this year so I was really looking forward to having all my family in town and at my graduation, but now we can only have four people.
- What changes are they making to the senior walk that you all normally participate in? It’s next Monday at 10 AM. Usually we put on our cap and gowns, walk through the primary and the little kids make signs for us, then the intermediate, then the junior high and then the high school. Afterwards we normally go bowling. Now, I think we are going to drive our cars to those places and the teachers line up outside in their cars.
Note: This interview was conducted on May 4th and I have spoken with Ms. Wingo since then in regard to her Senior Walk. She has this to say about the senior walk.
“The senior parade was probably more fun than the actual senior walk that we normally do.”
- Are there any plans that you have after graduation that will be affected? We have a family reunion Memorial Day weekend. We haven’t talked about; I don’t know if it will be postponed. I have a vacation in the middle of June that is still on; all of the flights are still booked. As long as everything goes the way it’s going, it should be fine.
- Do you have a job? Yes, Smoothie King.
- What changes have been made at work due to COVID-19? We have to wear a mask the whole time we are in the restaurant and we have to wear gloves if we handle money. Only five are allowed inside the restaurant at a time. Two days ago a huge family came in and they could only come in five at a time and the dad stayed the whole time. We opened up to Door Dash, so we had to learn how to package those. We put the smoothie in a bag. Every two hours we deep clean the smoothie bowls and we sanitize everything, every 30 minutes. It slowed down the first week and a half but then it went back to normal like it is over the summer.
- How do you think that this health crisis has changed the future of how our country handles things like this? I think we are going to be a lot more concerned about personal hygiene and more aware of when we are sick.
- How do you think this will affect your generation’s outlook on life? I don’t think it will affect our outlook too much. I think every generation has an outbreak they have had to deal with and this was ours.
- Can you tell me something positive that has come out of this? I think it has made me save a lot of money and I also know now that I will never take an online class, especially a math one. I am still really busy but not as busy as I would be. Spring is my busiest time of the year and I got a job so it would be even busier. So now all I have to worry about is my job and finishing my online schoolwork.
- What are your plans for college? I’m going to Tyler Junior College for an Associates in Business and then to the University of Texas at Tyler to finish with a Bachelors in Business.
When this health crisis has passed and we go back to our normal lives, I hope the experiences these seniors have gone through will help them throughout their lives. They have experienced an event that sets them apart from the rest.
The Class of 2020 will always be remembered.
As I said, it’s one for the books.