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Monday, March 30, 2020

To a Lost Senior Year: Highlands Senior VP Reflects on the COVID-19 Pandemic



Hiren Lemma is a guest writer for The Hilltopper and serves as Vice President for the Highlands High School Senior Class. (Img: Stella Fahlbusch)


Note:
The following is an article outlining how seniors are dealing with missing out on their senior year of high school. It was written by Hiren Lemma, the Vice President for the Highlands High School Senior Class. You can also read it here.



This is not how it was supposed to be. Spring semester of senior year -- this is just not how it was supposed to be.

The past two weeks have been an absolute whirlwind. Our perception of COVID-19 has shifted from a meme to a distant threat to a global pandemic permeating every aspect of daily life. As a country, we have slowly begun to transition to more proactive measures. Finally looking at other nations' responses, and the successes and challenges they've faced, has facilitated more pointed action. A delayed incentive to act proactively, though, is simply reactive.

Like most of us, I had much to look forward to coming into spring semester. Nearly all of the landmark events that define senior year fall during this period of time: final prom, visiting my future college, graduation. An infinite list of lasts that I simply can not let go: a last high school orchestral performance, a last Mrs. Kearns hug. One last Potato Soup Bread Bowl day.

The simplicity and profundity of experiencing a last day of high school.

I know we are not at that point yet. By the current schedule, we should return to school as usual by April 20th. After these past few days, though, I am finding it more and more difficult to hold onto the optimism I had on the last Friday of normal classes. The status of the pandemic across the globe has accelerated dramatically. Global allies in this fight offer glimpses into our future. Nations even more prepared than we are, resource-wise, are struggling. As districts across the country shift permanently to online classes for the remainder of the academic year, as Harvard University plans an "online degree ceremony" as they indefinitely postpone their renowned annual Commencement, the prospect of returning to the halls of Highlands High School dims slowly.

As such, I have begun to mourn my senior year. I mourn the concept of Senior Spring that I had held on to for so long. I have taken on a difficult course load each of my four years. All the long days and sleepless nights, though, were meant to culminate as the beginning of my college transition. The months that ended my high school career and commenced my undergraduate experience composed the goal I had been working towards since I was 13 years old, struggling through AP Human Geography DYRTs and Pre-AP English I Advanced speeches, planning for the ACTs and SATs I would take in the years to come. But now, with a complete revaluation of AP examinations by the College Board and the unprecedented difficulty of shifting to solely technology-based learning, the end to my senior year has manifested into the most stressful period of the entire four years. (Except for possibly third-quarter of sophomore year -- that was rough.)

I am not ready to let go of College T-Shirt Day. I still need the opportunity to thank all of the administrators and teachers that have shaped my worldview in ways I have yet to fully comprehend. I need to sit beside my peers of the past nine years and learn, explore, grow one last time. COVID-19 has stolen the most influential period of my life to date, and I feel like I'm in an echo chamber, screaming at Corona to give it back. Pleading for one more chance in the good old days.

But I also know that this pandemic is bigger than me. It's bigger than my family or Fort Thomas, our state or our country. The novel coronavirus is an extremely infectious respiratory disease that has killed over 18,000 people globally--and infected over 400,000--in just about four months. Beyond disrupting my prom or graduation ceremony, it has demolished the American economy, putting a costly pause to small and large businesses across the nation. My delayed appreciation to teachers and mentors doesn't even remotely compare to the families who have been stripped of their loved ones, to the medical personnel who prove their patriotism every day by leaving the sanctity of their homes to fight this pandemic head-on.

I am struggling. We, as members of the Class of 2020, are struggling. Americans across this country are struggling.

We will overcome, though, because we understand that we are living history as we speak. We are fighting the pandemic the ways we can -- washing our hands, social distancing, self-isolation -- because we understand that the repercussions of our actions move beyond our communities.




How do I feel about the coronavirus? I feel helpless. I feel wronged. I feel as though everything that has happened over the last few months has been insanely unfair. I feel frustrated because some of this chaos could have been prevented, and now, steps to prevent even worse tragedies are being hindered by politicians focused on what we should have done rather than what we need to do now. I feel angry that not everyone has recognized the momentousness of this moment. I feel desperate for change and progress but impotent because all I can do is sit in my home and wait.

But ultimately, I feel hopeful. In these past weeks, I have seen stronger efforts toward unity and compassion than at any other time that I have witnessed in recent American history. People around the world have reached out to empathize with our class and offer guidance as we navigate the unknown ahead. Our communities have come together to support one another the way we can, and that, more than anything, fills me with a sense of optimism in anticipation of the eventual end of this crisis.

And so, to the Highlands High School Class of 2020, I say thank you. Thank you for nine years of laughter and tears, of stress and bliss. Even as we look towards the possibility of an abrupt end to a beautiful chapter, you show me every day why I am proud to be a bluebird.

Until we return to the nest,

Hiren Lemma

Your Vice-President and Friend

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