When Minnesota Governor Tim Walz first issued the shelter in place order to stay home on March 27th, many high school seniors remained hopeful to resume activities and connect with friends. For parents, students, educators, and support staff, school was in full swing with academic learning, test prep, sports, arts, and social events. Spring sports training just started, ACT and SAT college prep classes were taking place, and students were busy working on group learning projects. Students involved in the arts were working hard to showcase their talents. Then students took a pause as teachers and educators were busy navigating the transition, switching from classroom to distance learning.
- First, the COVID-19 stay at home order was extended to at least May 4th. Many of the big anticipated events that were scheduled to take place in the spring were cancelled–like high school prom. No prom?!!
- Then on April 23rd, Governor Tim Walz announced an executive order that school buildings would stay closed for the remainder of the school year. The reason for the closure was to keep students and families safe and healthy by further slowing the spread of COVID-19. No graduation?!!!
Prior to graduation, there are all the group events that lead up to the big event such as senior pranks, prom, and parties. These are things to look forward to–anticipation that many seniors feel that are missing out on this year. Instead, there may be feelings of disappointment, sense of ambiguous grief, and regret.
High school graduation marks an important milestone in a senior’s life. Walking on stage in front of proud family and friends–being handed their diploma as a token of achievement after years of year work. Feeling the excitement and energy in a group setting among peers, and celebrating in traditions such as throwing graduation caps, taking pictures with family and friends, warm embraces, and shaking hands with those who played an instrumental role in one’s education are commonly associated with graduation.
Group traditions with high school graduation pose quite a dilemma in the time of social distancing. So how can students make meaning of all the uncertainty as they journey into a new chapter in their lives? Parents, students, educators, and support staff are still in the process of figuring this out! There is a question regarding the best way to still honor and celebrate high school (and college) seniors who are about to graduate. Most would agree on the importance of alternative substitutions that still honor the achievements and milestones that are celebrated in a student’s life–whether events be postponed or done in a virtually creative way. Acknowledging the Class of 2020 during this time is so important and schools are working on plans such as holding virtual graduation ceremonies to still celebrate students despite the physical buildings being closed. I am looking forward to how our community will pull together.
Let’s support our seniors as the year of 2020 is truly a memorable and historic year in so many ways.