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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Washington class of COVID-19 celebrates accomplishments

Students plan to reclaim unconventional senior year with new ideas

An illustration of a student experiencing a virtual graduation due to COVID-19.// Illustration by Macy Adkinson.

By Macy Adkinson

After finding out they would not be attending school for the rest of the year, the class of 2020 set out to save their shortened senior experience. Since then, Sehome High School in Bellingham and Moses Lake High School in eastern Washington have proposed new ways to commemorate seniors with a twist. 

Schools all over Washington moved to online learning after Gov. Jay Inslee extended school closures through June as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that senior students won’t get to take part in their final season of spring sports, prom or graduation.  

“The future is all we have been working for since kindergarten and to finally have made it deserves a moment to be proud,” Sehome High School senior Kaya Bally said. 

Bally started an Instagram page for the class of 2020 to post their senior photos along with future endeavors. Almost 300 people follow the account, which she created to give recognition to her class and give them a feeling of accomplishment. 

“It’s a really great outlet for seniors to get the excitement of publicly committing to a school or declaring their plans,” Bally said. 

Bally said that Sehome seniors have come to a consensus that they would want events pushed back into the summer rather than forfeit them altogether or have them hosted through Zoom. 

However, Sehome senior Jackson Perkins said that the school associated student body is still trying to plan virtual events, including a live-streamed prom, to give the students something to look forward to. 

On the other hand, high school students and community members in Moses Lake drove their cars around the local football field, following safe social distancing, and watched the stadium light up for 20 minutes in their honor. The scoreboard read all 20s.

Honks and cheers filled the streets.

“The driveby made me feel as though people understood how hard it is for us to not get what everyone else is getting or has gotten when it comes to senior year,” Moses Lake senior Bethany Bateman said. Bateman was looking forward to competing at state and regional gymnastics for one last season. She already had her prom dressed picked out. 

Moses Lake High School counselor Patty Holloway has been working closely with staff and students to accommodate the seniors. 

“The high school has a committee working together to come up with a plan for our seniors,” Holloway said. “Events such as prom, college signing day and graduation are all points of discussion. A current theme is a possible parade. People are placing huge pictures of their seniors on their lawn and community members honk when they drive by.”

The community of Bellingham is doing what it can to show support for the seniors. On April 17, houses in Bellingham left their porch lights on to show they stand in solidarity with them, Perkins said. Lights went on at 8:20 p.m., as it represents 20:20 in military time. 

Perkins said the original goal was to turn on the Sehome stadium lights at 8:20 p.m. to honor spring sports athletes, but the superintendent was worried that would encourage people to break social distancing. 

“It feels like there are a lot of loose ends that I’ll never get to tie because I’ll never walk the halls as a high school student again,” Perkins said. 

Superintendent Greg Baker held a virtual meeting on April 24, to inform the community about any updates he has on how graduation will be held. 

“It [graduation] is not going to be like it was. It’s not going to be like your parent’s or grandparent’s graduations, but it very well could be the most unique, once-in-a-lifetime graduation ceremony that this world has ever seen,” Baker said during the virtual conference. 

Baker said he has asked his team not to rush to come up with a solution, but to explore all of their options before they make a decision on what graduation looks like. 

Sehome ceramics teacher Lonnie Schang said that he encourages students to come together and remember the good times.
“Try your best to work through your feelings and rely on your friends for support. You may have lost a part of your senior year in high school but you still have those friends and some great memories. Cherish them,” Schang said.


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