Will the class of 2021 have a traditional graduation?


Kaysa Flemk-Joli

Jupiter High seniors celebrate the first day of Spirit Week 2019.

Coronavirus abruptly ended the 2020 school year for students globally, leaving many seniors confused and distressed. Jupiter High’s senior class had their most exciting year cut short, with the cancellation of Grad Bash and prom, but, most importantly, the long-awaited, in-person graduation ceremony and proper farewell. As a class of 2021 senior, I feel nothing but empathy for them, and I’m hoping our in-person graduation ceremony will not be cancelled as well. 

The past few months have been challenging for us. Filling out college applications during a global pandemic, accepting the fact we’re becoming young adults and thinking about a successful future has been stressful. To add to that pressure, seniors are wondering if our in-person graduation ceremony will take place.

Jupiter High’s class of 2021 is the first senior class in over a century to begin and end their high school career in the midst of a global pandemic. They’re the first class to not attend their first prom, as juniors, due to the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in March. Although it isn’t certain all senior events will be cancelled, due to recent spikes in COVID-19 cases across the country, many of us are unsure of what the future holds.

From a realistic perspective, we don’t know if we’ll ever get to experience the “full package” of our last year of high school. We don’t know if we’ll have the privilege of wearing all black outfits with the prized, senior gold crown on our heads at pep rallies. We don’t know if we’ll be able to celebrate a traditional Spirit Week. We don’t even know if we’ll be able to give our past and current teachers one last hug and thank you. 

Jupiter High seniors have mixed feelings about their final year of high school in a time of COVID-19, many feeling some sense of frustration.

“Of course the pandemic has taken away our senior year. I mean no senior night, senior pep rally or any of the traditional stuff our school does. I feel sad I’m never going to get to do any of that with my friends after three years of working so hard just to get to senior year,” Amanda Tannuzzo, Jupiter High senior, said. 

You’re only a senior in high school once, and most of us want to end our high school career on a high note with the future in sight. 

“I think everyone sees senior year as some big glitz-and-glam show, but it’s just one year closer to the rest of our lives. We weren’t robbed of our senior year, we were robbed of the learning experiences that teach us fundamental things which we can carry on through the years,” Dylan Leon, Jupiter High senior, said.

Senior year is the year we’re supposed to learn life lessons, like how to manage our finances on our own, how to navigate college life without our parents, how to cook for ourselves and the like.

Recently, I’ve done some soul searching about my senior year. We can’t change what has happened to millions of us. We will never know what it’s like to walk in the hallways of school on the first day of senior year with our heads held high, to know we were at the top of the high school food chain or to reunite with our friends after summer break. COVID-19 took that away from us, but it did not change our sense of aspiration and hope. It did not take away our ability to cope with an unprecedented situation in our lifetime.

“Reading, cooking or meditation really helped me pass through a lot of boredom and kept my mental health positive,” Parker Long, Jupiter High senior, said.

Optimism is one of the most important things we have during times like these, and my hope is that as the school year progresses, things will improve, perhaps to the point that we will have a traditional graduation ceremony.

“We have so much more to look forward to in the future besides high school,” Tannuzzo said. “There’s lots of things that are more important in our lives than a cap and gown, and even though it’s sad to think that might happen, that doesn’t mean everything else is going away too.” 

Questions about just exactly how our graduation ceremony will look are on seniors’ minds, and we’re hopeful it will be more like a traditional one.

“I think it would be possible if we did it outside, but at this point, I don’t think having that many people in a room would be safe,” Tannuzzo said. 

Having a graduation ceremony indoors, with thousands of people seated together closely in one space is, unfortunately, unsafe and most likely won’t happen this school year. However, there is still a chance we could have the ceremony outside, while socially distancing with masks on. There is also a possibility it could be a virtual ceremony like the class of 2020’s graduation. 

“I think there’s a possible chance that we could have a socially-distanced graduation, but most likely it’ll be online,” Long said.

The image of a traditional high school graduation ceremony has been the event replaying in my head ever since I first watched “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” in kindergarten. It’s what most of us seniors wanted to end our final year of high school with a sense of closure and freedom. COVID-19 just might change that for us.