Unique situation: Class of 2020 has faced interesting challenges from the beginning

Published 1:04 pm Saturday, March 21, 2020

This article was submitted by Bonnie Coblentz with the MSU Extension Service.

The Class of 2020, born in the shadow of 9/11 and graduating with traditional senior activities marred by COVID-19, will know without a doubt that life events can be unexpected.

Beth Bell, a Mississippi State University Extension Service agent in Tallahatchie County, said parents can help their young people by encouraging them to carry on with their days as if they are still going to actual school.

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“That means getting up and dressed at a normal time, eating meals as scheduled and setting aside a place to go online and complete schoolwork,” Bell said. “Make sure physical activity is included in the new daily routine, including as much time spent outdoors as possible.”

Jennifer Russell, an Extension agent in Washington County, said parents and friends can be creative in finding ways to replace the milestone events seniors are missing.

“A delayed graduation celebration can be an option so the senior class is still honored and celebrated with family and friends,” Russell said. “If you’ve already purchased a prom dress, set aside a day to dress up and take photos.”

When social gatherings are again allowed, be sure to use technology to include family members and friends who cannot participate.

Bell added that a canceled prom or graduation party can seem trivial when people are dying in a pandemic. How high school seniors and the people closest to them respond will shape their attitudes and memories for a lifetime.

The emotional toll can be hard to detect, as not everyone is aware of their true feelings and even fewer articulate them. Some of the feelings may be expressed as boredom, introversion, increased snacking and a lack of focus.

“These seniors have had a routine shaped by schoolwork for 13 years, and now it has been pulled out from under them,” Bell said. “It’s easy to be mad or sad about missing out on these last, special events, but we can’t let this loss shape our attitude forever. Our high school seniors are being forced to practice resiliency, and having a positive attitude will make it easier to get through and thrive.”

Dorothy Roberson, the senior class counselor at Starkville High School, acknowledged the loss seniors are experiencing but urged them to persevere.

“I hate that this is happening to them during a time that is supposed to be filled with fun and making lasting memories for them and their classmates,” Roberson said. “I wish I could look into the future and tell them that everything will be fine, and we will be back to school next week, but I can’t.”

She urged seniors to keep working patiently and diligently toward their diplomas, and continue completing college preparations and pursuing career opportunities from home.

“Don’t think of this time away from school as an extended spring break,” Roberson said. “Keep up with your studies and let your school faculty and staff worry about the rest.”