Senioritis is always bad around graduation time. It was even worse this year.
Coupled with a pandemic that prevented many from being at school with their peers for more than a year, the lack of motivation — and willingness to let go — is easy to find.
“It’s a very extreme case of senioritis,” said Ella Maoz, a senior at Mission High School. “We don’t have that typical closure. It’s hard to let go of something you never got to finish.”
High school seniors this year, unlike those in 2020, largely get to have a ceremony in person. Some private schools scheduled their events over the weekend, while thousands of San Francisco Unified School District students will graduate at staggered ceremonies from June 1-3.
As restrictions loosen and more campus activities have been allowed, some graduating high schoolers have tried to make up for lost time or create a version of senior memories. Some have thought about dressing up for photos and others are planning informal gatherings after graduation.
Sarah Cheung, a senior at San Francisco University High School, said the days morphing together while learning remotely took a toll on her mental health, and it was less accessible online to ask for help if she needed it. But as her school welcomed back students, they were able to come together to do things like talk about the recent acts of hate displayed against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“I want to feel like I’m ending the year strong and feel like I’m part of my school community,” said Cheung, who will attend Yale University in the fall. “It felt weirdly long, but also weirdly like nothing happened. I don’t have anything to mark the past year in terms of significant school events and experiences.”
Philippe Astier, a senior at Lowell High School, feels he’s been able to make the most of a bad situation. He kept in touch with friends, went on hikes with his family, and got to play a few more games with his varsity baseball teammates. Both Maoz and Astier got a job largely to have some structure and regular people to see.
“Although this was obviously a big letdown and bummer to have a final year and have lots of your high school experiences cut off, I think it was really important to find the silver lining and find the things you could control,” Astier said. “I had some great memories and moments during quarantine.”
Like other seniors, Astier said he’s excited to have the chance to graduate in person, “one of the biggest moments you can have from high school.” Though the plan has been criticized by others for its limited scale, he is also grateful that SFUSD offered seniors a chance to be on campus for three days before the end of the year and walk through the halls one more time.
Before he heads down to Santa Barbara City College, Astier plans on seeing as many friends from high school in the summer and take trips now that they have driver’s licenses and can get out of the area.
Maoz passed on the chance to be on campus before the “depressing” and “lonely” school year ended since she found it confusing and her friends weren’t going. She did, however, get to see all of her classmates at a graduation rehearsal last Tuesday for the first time since school campuses closed.
“I saw some people where I was like, ‘I forgot you existed,’” said Maoz, who will attend Emerson College in the fall. “I love spending time with these people and I didn’t get to do any of that. There are people you don’t stay in touch with if you don’t see them every single day.”
Joyce Truong, a senior at Lincoln High School, felt the same. She also decided not to go back on campus since few of her classmates signed up to do so, and they would have had to relocate to Lowell. Her mother was also concerned about safety.
Truong lamented missing the chance to go to prom, winter formal, and have her school beat George Washington High at an annual football game where photos of the senior class are taken and later hung in the hallway.
“I’m very proud of myself and my friends and just my class for getting through this hard time,” said Truong, who will attend the University of California, Berkeley in the fall. “I’m just really inspired by all of us; I know we’re all going to do great things.”
Though these seniors have had uniquely odd circumstances for their entire final year, last spring’s Class of 2020 missed out on the big finish of a graduation ceremony altogether. Many, like San Francisco State University student Kenny Vuong, began another chapter without being able to meet their fellow freshmen.
“I’m excited for the class of 2021 to have the opportunity to have in-person graduation, but it’s definitely bringing up some emotions that they had the opportunity we didn’t,” said Vuong, who graduated from George Washington last year. “You want to walk on stage with your friends and family; the reality is it just wasn’t going to happen.”
And Vuong isn’t assuming anything when it comes to a college graduation ceremony.
“Let’s cross our fingers,” Vuong said. “I don’t want to jinx it; you never know.”