SENIOR SECTION: Class of 2021 says goodbye to SCHS after a bittersweet year turned upside down by a global pandemic


“Unprecedented times,” “unusual circumstances” and “due to the current situation” have become familiar phrases to the class of 2021 as more than a quarter of their years at SCHS have been spent online. Classic senior year traditions like prom, graduation, senioritis and having “lasts” were offset by a global pandemic. 

“It kind of just leaves a sour taste in your mind… getting robbed of your senior experience,” senior Nicholas Ragone said.

In addition to senior expectations falling short, unanticipated academic changes have made their last year and a half unique in more ways than one. As SCHS took its first steps to online school  in March 2020, students like senior Sierra Blackhurst were surprised by the district’s decision to only award credits to students instead of letter grades. This eased the pressure on students whose lives were being greatly influenced by the first wave of the pandemic.

“It (the credit/no credit system) was nice, because it felt like we were not being held at fault for COVID getting in the way of our education and our grades,” Blackhurst said. “So in a way, I almost preferred that.”

Junior year is infamously known for its rigorous homework and as the year where students take the SAT, a standardized test required by most colleges. To aid students who were not able to take it, a majority of California schools and some out-of-state colleges waived the requirement for all applicants this year. Ragone was relieved when he first heard the news.

“Actually, I felt like it (removing the SAT requirement) was kind of a blessing in disguise because I personally didn’t think I did amazing on the SAT,” Ragone said.

Some seniors feel that online classes have been easier, whether it is because of relaxed workload, or having more time to work on assignments. Others claim that the ease of simpler and shorter classes has amplified their senioritis, or temptation to slack off and lay back during class. While seniors may enjoy this irregular occurrence, some students like Blackhurst wonder if online school has prepared them enough for college.

“I definitely feel like my academic skills have not been used enough this year to have improved upon them,” Blackhurst said. “I don’t really feel like I used my brain enough to have actually learned and retained very much knowledge.”

Senior Sean Do, on the other hand, has had more of a positive experience with distance learning. 

“It did take a while to adjust to having so much free time. I had to learn to kind of reallocate that time to doing either studying, or focusing on assignments,” Do said. “My studying habits are probably a lot better than pre-pandemic because I have found what works for me.”

It has, however, been an abnormal time for seniors beyond academics. Unable to spend school days together in classrooms, between the hallways and in the quad during lunch, many seniors found it hard to stay connected. Blackhurst lamented many extracurriculars, such as theater, being unable to function normally. Ragone reflected on his last day of “real school.”

“That fateful day on March 12 was the last normal day that we all got together,” Ragone said. “Ever since then, everyone has longed for that. I’ve longed for it ever since it was taken away.” 

Senior Erica Dela Cruz, like many others, worried about how the pandemic would impact her friendships.

“When cases were up and there were a lot of restrictions, my friends and I had to stay home and stay safe,” Dela Cruz said. “This year, I was nervous about losing my friends because we couldn’t see each other in-person as often as we would have wanted to. But thankfully, we still kept in touch by calling or doing virtual things together.”

On top of the general sadness and disappointment seniors are feeling, those who applied to college found it difficult to navigate research and applications on their own.

There were no on-campus visits from colleges, where students would usually attend sessions with the schools they were interested in during SSR. Instead, all presentations and informational meetings took place online. According to academic counselor Cindy Menezes, counselors had to think outside the box to come up with ways to support students with college applications.

“It’s been a wild year navigating college applications during distance learning,” Menezes said. “One of the things counselors did was to create an online appointment booking system so that students could schedule a virtual counseling appointment either by Google Meet or over the phone.”

Still, some seniors struggled to find their way around college research and applications. Blackhurst acknowledged the Counseling Department’s efforts but prefers what a normal school year would have offered her.

“I remember freshman (and) sophomore year, there were always announcements going on about like, ‘Make sure you get your FAFSA done,’” Blackhurst said. “It’s just like there was kind of a lack of support (this year).” 

Although graduates will have the opportunity to brag about a senior year, they are currently cooling off from two semesters of online assignments and Google Meets. Menezes congratulates students on their tenacity throughout the online school year.

“Despite these challenges, it has been amazing to see my students persevere and work hard to reach their goals, and I am so incredibly proud of the class of 2021,” Menezes said.