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Cook County High School seniors reflect on their "lost" final semester

May 15, 2020 12:08PM ● By Editor

In a normal year, the Cook County High School gym would witness a parade of caps and gowns, names being read and diplomas awarded, and cheers from the crowd. This year it sits empty awaiting a happier time.  Photo: Boreal Community Media

Editors Note:  Ellen Callender is Boreal's Digital Media Journalism Intern.  She is a senior at Cook County High School.  Her paid internship is made possible by a grant from the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation.

By Ellen Callender from Boreal Community Media - May 15, 2020

Senior year is a time of tradition: breakfast as a class on the first day of school, attending the class banquet, walking at graduation, and leaving our mark on the school with a legacy art project. For many, this year would have been their last sporting event or dance recital. But this year, things are different: many of us are finishing senior year from home, looking back on the moments that made senior year count. 

While we spend all year counting down the days until graduation, many weren’t quite as ready as they thought they were. “It’s sad because these are things we have looked forward to since elementary school”, said one senior. Another senior added, “we won’t get to have a proper goodbye on the last day of school. We won’t get to say goodbye to the underclassmen we have become close with”. Although many milestones have been moved online, seniors are still missing these important high school moments. 

This year’s valedictorian, Robin Henrikson, didn’t expect to be sent home early from working abroad in France, let alone to be finishing the year at home. “Everything feels surreal, from virtual communication to a social-distance graduation. When I learned I was valedictorian, I never imagined giving my speech over video”. This year’s graduation will be the most unique ceremony Cook County Schools has ever seen. Mitch Dorr, assistant Principal of Cook County Schools, said, “We are setting the goal, during this time of uncertainty, to create the most positive and energetic graduation experience of any small town in America”.

For senior athletes, many have been striving to make varsity or become a captain since freshman year. The last moments on the high school playing field are important to seniors, especially softball player Alyssa Spry: “being a senior athlete has been emotional, and missing out on the last season, the best season, has done more than heartbreaking things. No last goodbyes, or cheers, or even team tears. Every team I’ve been with will always be in my heart”. Softball player Abbie Crawford felt the same, saying: “even though we started with a few weeks to a month off, I kept practicing softball, hoping to come back to the sport I love. It’s hard not getting your last season”. Running track since seventh grade, I was excited to make my last season count after training all winter for the last few meets of my career. Senior track runner Trent Spry is in the same boat: “missing my senior track season means not getting to compete against people I’ve been going up against for my whole career, just one last time”. Emma Gesch, who experienced an injury this year, is still missing her last softball season. “I was already going to miss my sports this year”, she said, “but now I lost the things I should’ve been able to do that I’ve worked the past twelve years for”.

Dancer Aurora Schelmeske has performed since she can remember, all leading up to her self-choreographed solo that was set to be performed this year. After the dance recital was canceled, Aurora was devastated: “it is hard to have spent time and energy creating my solo, and especially hard not to be able to share that with my friends and family as a culmination of my fifteen years of dancing”. 

As the school year comes to a close, many seniors are taking time to focus on the positive side: senior Paige Everson said, “even though the best three months of the whole twelve years of school has been taken away from us, I think we are all much closer after this”. Abbie Crawford said, “we have to keep plugging away with sports, school, or work. I want to thank Cook County for everything they have done for me”. While seniors are wishing they could say a proper goodbye to high school, many have accepted the new normal, with more time to reflect, relax, and do everything that they have never had time for. One senior said, “though the social side of senior year came to a close early, this isolation has provided much needed and valuable time”. Looking forward, the Class of 2020 will have gained strength and resilience from this very unexpected situation--“There’s no way I can change it”, said senior Emma Gesch, “you just have to roll with the punches. You get used to them after a while”.

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