High school seniors eagerly anticipating class trips, prom, commencement and so much more in the busy final weeks of their time at Orestimba and Gustine high schools last week found themselves facing the new reality that those special moments may never be experienced.
While the school closures in the local districts are currently scheduled to end with the resumption of classes April 20, students are bracing for the very real possibility that the remainder of the school year - and the senior activities therein - will be called off.
A number of local seniors shared by email their thoughts and reaction to the interruption - if not the premature end - of their final high school year.
Megan Azevedo, GHS
Azevedo, the ASB president at Gustine High, said she believes that school will resume.
She acknowledged, though, that might not be the case - a reality which hit home last Wednesday.
“It didn’t hit me until (that) day that this could possibly be our last day of school for our senior year,” Azevedo commented. “My thoughts were that this could be the last time hanging out with my friends at break and lunch. My senior classmates and I didn’t get any good-byes or pictures. We were just all kind of shocked.”
She is among Gustine FFA members who are raising livestock projects for the Spring Fair in Los Banos, which has been canceled, and has a pig for the Merced fair as well. “I hope it will still be on. I am working with both pigs in hopes (of being) able to show and sell them.”
Her final months of the senior year were already planned out, Azevedo related.
“What I couldn’t wait to do, now I will just have to wait to see what happens,” she explained. “I really don’t want to miss the fair and senior prom and graduation. Coming from OLM I had a very small graduation. As the senior class treasurer I was looking forward to a big graduation on the football field with my whole class.”
Azevedo said she will spend her time in part organizing virtual spirit days and documenting what others are doing with their time off.
Riley Marroquin, OHS
The news of the impending school closure was heart-breaking for Orestimba senior Riley Marroquin.
“My senior year is something I have looked forward to forever,” Marroquin commented. “All year we have been preparing for that inevitable heart-break that comes with graduating, but that heart-break came sooner than we expected. I feel like I have been robbed of my senior year....senior trip, prom, those last memories of high school. We will never get these weeks back.”
Marroquin said she, too, is remaining hopeful that schools can re-open and at least a portion of the senior year can be salvaged.
Marroquin was among OHS seniors taking part in an impromptu, unofficial graduation “ceremony” at lunch on the final day before the closure.
She said Principal Justin Pruett promised students that they will have their real graduation, “even if it is on the Fourth of July with fireworks.”
“It is reassuring knowing that we will eventually get the chance to receive our diplomas and walk across that stage,” Marroquin expressed.
Senior parents and her siblings are also missing out on activities, she said, including escorting her on senior night and sending her off to her last prom.....”all the things we were looking forward to experiencing together.”
Social media and cell phones will help keep friends and classmates in touch, Marroquin indicated, but it is not the same as being together as a class.
FFA competitions and track were among the activities cut short for Marroquin.
Patrick Broderick, GHS
Broderick said he was shocked to learn of the school closure, filled with questions about being able to graduate and prepare for college and wondering what would become of the many activities planned.
He said he is not optimistic that the school year is going to resume, and is looking ahead with questions about how colleges will be able to adjust in order to welcome their incoming freshmen.
Broderick said he was particularly upset at not being able to complete his final year of high school baseball after having worked hard to come back from an injury. He was also scheduled to compete in the FFA regional contest this week after winning the Section job interview contest earlier.
The crisis has also left Broderick out of work at a time when earning money is even more important in his life.
He said that he will continue working with his livestock projects in the event that an opportunity arises to show.
On what may have been his last high school, Broderick shared, “I was just sad that I would not be able to spend this time with my peers and grow with them as we inched closer and closer to graduation each day.”
Abraham Gutierrez, OHS
Gutierriez said he is hopeful but not optimistic that school will resume.
Even a month-long closure, he reflected, represents weeks of special senior year activities that won’t be experienced.
“The most difficult thing I have to deal with is that I don’t get to have those memories of my senior year with friends. I don’t get to play my senior year in tennis. I don’t get to go to the school rave or dances. There are a lot of ‘won’ts’ this year because I have to stay and be a senior at home,” Gutierrez expressed.
The day before the closure was surreal, he added, as the reality hit home that he could be unexpectedly bringing his high school years to a conclusion, “that this could be my last day with all my friends before we go on our different paths. I hung out with my friends. I tried to make the most of what could possibly be my last day at Orestimba High School.”
Aubrie Hazan, GHS
Hazan said she and her classmates were looking forward to activities ranging from senior trip and Sober Grad to graduation ceremonies, spring sports and other activities.
“It is devastating to realize that we are missing out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and memories,” said Hazan, who said she holds out hope that school will re-open.
She is most upset about the prospect of missing the senior trip to Disneyland and being unable to compete at FFA regionals in the job interview contest.
“My goal this year was to win the state FFA job interview contest. Now I am not even sure if I will even be able to compete. At this point, the regional and state competitions are both postponed and I am holding out hope that they will be rescheduled,” Hazan commented.
Like most other seniors contacted, Hazan said she will spend her time on school work and staying in touch with friends.
She said the mood at Gustine High was subdued on what could have been the final day of school for seniors.
“I tried to make a concerted effort to savor every moment of that day, especially with my friends,” Hazan shared. “It was difficult because the school schedule was different, many students did not attend, the mood was somber instead of celebratory and there wasn’t much acknowledgement that his could be our very last day of our senior year.”
Doreen Dyt, OHS
Dyt said the announcement of the school closure brought the reality that she might not realize many of the “lasts” that in more normal times go hand in hand with the final months of the senior year.
From an academic standpoint, she said, the weeks ahead were vital for her in the multiple AP classes she is taking. Learning online is not the same as a classroom environment, Dyt said.
Dyt does not see schools re-opening this year, which means that events such as prom and senior trips don’t happen....but she is hopeful that something can be worked out so a graduation ceremony of some form can be held.
Dyt wonders if she will have an opportunity to wear the dress she purchased for prom....or if she will experience the long-anticipated moment at which she receives her high school diploma.
Last Wednesday was alternately somber and uplifting, Dyt said, as students came to grips with the fact that the school year - and in some cases their senior year - could well be coming to an end.
“There was a cute prom-posal that morning, but I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t think prom was going to happen,” Dyt recalled. “The thoughts running through my head were that I didn’t think I would return to high school.”