This year has been tough on high school seniors, who have had graduations, proms, and several other special events canceled in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In this week's 'Teen Talk' column, a senior shares her school's creative solution for recreating those once-in-a-lifetime moments.

By Dasia Bandy
April 15, 2020
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Credit: Illustration by Yeji Kim

High school seniors are not only graduating and entering a new chapter of life, but entering the beginning of a new decade. The start of this year has caught the world by storm as cases of COVID-19 have steadily increased. Due to the pandemic, schools nationwide have closed and switched to online learning. I'm currently a senior in high school and once I received the news that my school was closing, I was overwhelmed with emotions and panicked.

Originally, I took the spread of the coronavirus very lightly. Although I followed suggested guidelines provided by health professionals, I thought there was no way that this spread could close school. On March 13, 2020, my high school closed school for two weeks. I was excited because I took it as an early spring break. However, my phone rang on March 17 with a message from my high school announcing that it would be closed for the remainder of the school year. I was still extremely optimistic and expected a traditional graduation and prom. There has never been a moment in history that I know of where proms were placed on hold nationwide. I surrounded myself with other hopeful seniors and friends until reality suddenly hit me with the fact that there was a new normal.

The Canceled Events Hit Us Hard

I felt like we were robbed of our last moments of high school, our memories, and our celebrations. No Senior Banquet. No Senior Week. No Grad Night. No spring sports. No College Acceptance Day. No Senior Spirit Week. All of our traditions have been taken away from us. For a week, I did not talk about anything related to school. I felt a heavy disappointment. No one can relate to how high school seniors across the world are feeling right now. Our freedom of choice has been taken away. We can not choose whether or not we want to attend prom or not.

I adopted the attitude of "it is what it is" with everything because of the effects of COVID-19 on our senior year. That's when all of my classmates started looking to me for encouraging words and innovative ideas to make prom happen. Everyone at my high school views me as the go-to girl because I participate in most school and community activities. Regardless of my titles and accolades, my peers look to me for answers. That's why the leader within me comforted my friends and began brainstorming a message for the graduating class of 2020.

Prom Will Still Go On

During this pandemic, I've been seeing an inspiring quote being shared on social media. The idea is that it's important to remember that staying positive does not mean you have to be happy all the time. It means that even on hard days you know that there are better days to come. In the coming days, we can still celebrate our milestones, just in a different way. Prom can still happen—and better yet—right from our homes. Through the help of technology and video conference calling, our once-in-a-lifetime high school experience will happen as scheduled. I suggested that our high school use Zoom to host our prom. Seniors and family members will tune in wearing their formal prom attire. The prom will begin with a heartfelt message from our senior class president and principal.

At the start of our virtual prom, we plan to play our class song that we voted on together earlier in the year. Following the song, everyone will play their own unique music playlist that they will dance and listen to while at home on Zoom. Lastly, everyone will participate in a "Guardian and Grad Dance," where seniors will have their last dance of the night with one of their parents or guardians. COVID-19 gave us seniors the unique opportunity to spend a lot of time with our parents and families during a period of our lives that will likely launch a lot of us into a transition. Some of us will be leaving home come the fall, so this extra time together is an unexpected silver lining. Our virtual prom is a nice way to celebrate our parents and guardians in this moment too.

Prom will conclude with the announcements of our Prom King and Prom Queen. The Class of 2020 now has the ultimate, coolest bucket list item that no one else but us can cross out! If we can overcome this, then we can overcome anything.

How Parents Can Help Us Celebrate

Us seniors are resilient, and so are our parents. There are several ways my friends and I would want our parents to help us celebrate the ending of our senior year at home. Simply creating a collage to post on social media will let us know you care. Making a slideshow of our high school memories and watching it with us over popcorn will be very comforting. You can still assist your seniors in prom shopping—though it will be online shopping instead of in stores. An additional idea would be to ask close friends and family members to write letters of motivation and acclamation to your senior. Gather all of the letters and place them in a cute basket wrapped in a bow.

Since pre-prom parties are not happening as planned, you can help your senior get ready for virtual prom by inviting friends or neighbors to stand in front of their home at a set time so your teen can show off his or her prom attire. A similar supportive social distancing parade can be repeated again for graduation and neighbors can applaud or shout messages of support at the graduating senior. Ending the events with a photo shoot of your senior adds that cherry on top effect. Parents can still celebrate their seniors during a pandemic while staying safe!

Dasia Bandy is a 17-year-old military child. She is currently a senior at Grassfield High School’s STEM Academy. She plans to attend college in the fall with a major in international affairs and biology. Bandy is passionate about creating an environment for leaders to emerge and the fight for mental health equality. She’s determined to make a difference. 

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