Class of 2020 Faces Exceptional Challenges, Learns Critical Lessons

It’s the final walk, on the final day. Resplendent and proud in their regalia, seniors bask in the well-wishes, hugs, and even a few farewell tears as they pass their applauding teachers and underclassmen. This “Senior Send Off” is a traditional rite of passage at Kingsway Regional High School that occurs on the last day of school, the morning of graduation.

A few months ago, no one would have envisioned that this tradition would not occur this year. Current seniors took part for the past three years congratulating those who went before them, and now it was their turn.

But of course, with the global pandemic and distance learning, this is not possible.

Kingsway senior Brooke Ferguson explained the tradition, and how she was looking forward to it and other senior customs.

The pandemic has changed Kingway senior Brooke Ferguson by making her want to get out and explore more. She has also developed healthier habits and has become more grateful for the activities she took for granted.

“As this was our senior year, I will miss out on my one and only prom. We missed out on our senior trip, our senior ceremony, and we missed out on experiencing the happy yet sad feeling on the last day of high school.”

While students have faced the cancellation of traditions and activities, academic learning has continued yet transitioned to a completely online environment.

Paul VI senior Megan Deming echoed the challenges that most students face with distance learning.

“The hardest thing is not being in a classroom and being able to get one-on-one help from teachers. Emailing them with specific questions has helped me a little, but it’s still not the same as being taught in person.”

Gabriela Collins, a senior at Kingsway, agreed. “I am a hands-on learner and I am missing that key component to my education.”

Miranda Fuchs, resident of Swedesboro and GCIT senior, practices a hairstyle before in-school learning was cancelled. Cosmetology students like Miranda face unique challenges with distance learning due to the nature of their program.

In addition, the nature of some academic programs provides extreme challenges in a virtual environment. Mikayla Gilham, a senior at Gloucester County Institute of Technology (GCIT), explained.

“Anything drama-related is difficult,” she confirmed. “It’s difficult to adjust because our curriculum is essentially being butchered due to how heavily it relies on being together as a class.”

Kingsway senior Alexis Kaplan, who plans to study medicine at University, explained her challenge.

“I miss the opportunity of shadowing the Rothman doctors for the allied health program I am a part of. This was a great experience that I wish I was able to complete.”

The cancellation of in-person school also brought the cancellation of spring sports, a serious activity for many students who plan to pursue their sport at the college level. Kingsway senior Brooke Kenney provided an example.

“My plans are to attend West Chester University and play for the Division 2 Women’s golf team. Unfortunately, I might have to continue online learning and my fall golf season may be delayed or even cancelled.”

While many students miss everyday school life, Kingsway senior Kali Poole acknowledged a bigger, and possibly life-changing challenge that many may face.

“More than anything, I miss the feeling of safety and certainty. As much as many of us dreaded waking up at 6 a.m. each day, hindsight has taught me that there is a comfort in knowing I would have school to wake up to. Now, the future is unclear, and even leaving the house for essential purposes instills a fear that new generations will never be able to understand.”

When asked how she is keeping positive during this time, Kingsway senior Stephanie Matteo gave good advice.

Kingsway senior Stephanie Matteo says she has looked at this whole experience as something that will make her a stronger individual and adds that every senior class around the world has been an inspiration.

“Other than hanging out with family, I dance around in my room like a little kid and facetime my friends. Dancing makes me feel happy and free, while talking to my friends brings me joy. It is very important to communicate with others during this time to keep some sanity.”

Kingsway senior Elizabeth Bennett described how much her family has helped her through this trying time.

Kingsway senior Elizabeth Bennett’s parents arranged a “Senior Lacrosse Night” for her, complete with decorations and a drive-by parade of friends, neighbors, family and teammates.

“My parents have been amazing. They did a Disney trip at home with me: Mickey Mouse pancakes, my dad dressed up as the Genie, my mom did a skit, and they did sparklers in front of the house as if they were fireworks at the castle.”

Bennet also explained how her parents held a “Senior Lacrosse Night” for her. 

“They decorated the house and my teammates, friends, neighbors and family all drove by honking with signs they made for me. I didn’t get to play the game or run through my teammates or hear the crowd roar, but they all showed me a lot of love which made it really special for me,” she concluded.

For many seniors, this unprecedented time has taught lessons they would never have learned in an otherwise ideal senior environment. Emma Stanley, a GCIT senior, was thoughtful.

“I’ve learned that no one can really predict the future, so it is important to take life as it is and just enjoy everything day by day. Enjoy the little things in life, because these things could change at any moment.”

“I’ve also found a new respect for nurses, doctors, truck drivers, delivery services, essential employees and so many more who have shone during this crisis,” she continued.

“I have also realized that some people do not take this seriously enough, and it has saddened me to know that some people I care for could expose themselves and possibly infect others because they fail to wear a mask or social distance.”

Kingsway senior James Messina has been staying positive during the crisis by doing his best to smile and think of the good things going on, like the fact that things are getting better and he is in good health.

Kingsway senior James Messina told how this situation has changed him as a person, and humanity overall.

“This experience has changed me and possibly for life. I look at things with an open mind and I

may never turn plans down ever again after this. [And] I want everyone to keep in mind, what we are doing right now is surprisingly bettering our future as humanity.”

When asked if there’s anything she would like to say to her high school community, GCIT senior Miranda Fuchs was upbeat and to the point about their collective accomplishment.

“Congrats Class of 2020! We did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Although this class is facing exceptional adversity, that well-earned proclamation that we pull out each spring to our beloved graduates remains the same.

Woolwich resident Megan Deming, a senior at Paul VI and a captain of her varsity lacrosse team, plays in a match last season. Due to the pandemic, this year’s season was cancelled.
The baseball gear of Kingsway Senior Andrew Bott sits unused due to the cancellation of the spring season. Andrew will attend Rutgers New Brunswick School of Business this fall.

By Colleen Woods-Esposito

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *