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'I didn't get to say goodbye': Graduating seniors grapple with unexpected ending to their high school careers

Original post made on May 8, 2020

In interviews, Midpeninsula seniors expressed disappointment -- but also acceptance -- of how the coronavirus has upended their final chapter of high school and all the traditions that come with it.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 8, 2020, 6:39 AM

Comments (9)

9 people like this
Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 8, 2020 at 12:05 pm

This is indeed unfortunate, however life does go on and the important thing is that you have your health.

5 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on May 8, 2020 at 5:10 pm

>>> Sias said she's considering going to Foothill College in Los Altos Hills for her freshman year if she can't attend college in person — for her, the cost of full tuition for online classes wouldn't be worth it.

I wonder if a lot of colleges will reopen in the fall just for that reason, so they don't lose their entering class. If students wanted remote learning, they wouldn't pay a premium for the Ivy League experience.

18 people like this
Posted by Embrace the imperfections
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2020 at 5:36 pm

The difference between the (reasonable) expectation and what happens is going to lead to experiences of loss. The students are dealing not just with the loss of what are considered perks of high school, delayed, but also the uncertainties of what's to come, including employment after college, which is the harder part.

These kids have had to make decisions about where to go to college, many of them, without ever visiting, without being able to learn what they need to about the schools because they are locked down on the other end, too. Most don't know what college will look like in the fall and whether they will have that important freshman year that sets them up to do well thereafter. They can't know that what has happened to their records won't go on to hurt them in the future despite all the reassurances. Realistically, people have a short memory for compassion in these circumstances that is usually for shorter than the need.

I do agree with you that life goes on. Anyone who's gone on to college remembers how those high school rites of passage seem like such a big deal at the time, yet for most people those friendships fade away for stronger friendships in college, and those experiences often develop an embarrassing juvenile tinge in hindsight. But you're not going to make a single one feel better by telling them that. I think the majority of kids in this town are thoughtful, intelligent, and the best way to help them cope is to give them opportunities to make a difference in the world because of the time and altered focus.

Many of my friends and I talk about how higher education in this country does such a poor job of preparing people to make a living, especially a living from their passions, especially in a changing world. People assume, often wrongly, that if you are passionate about something, it will all just work out. What happened just now could give those students a completely different view of how to conduct their educations in the next four to ten years, how to be in a positive way in the world, and how to make change that has been needed for far too long. What if these kids decided to use their time to get a really high percentage of young people to vote in the next election, to understand the issues of balance of power and how their sustained involvement could change everything? Which are they going to remember, prom, or the feeling of power from shepherding in healthcare for all or free higher education, or just changing the voting habits of their generation so they are no longer ignored? This spring gave them a pass to use their time the way they choose. And maybe it's an opportunity to choose something they wouldn't have had time for amidst the celebrations.

I do think the best way to cope with the loss is to find ways to somehow make this a more meaningful experience than otherwise, even in its imperfections and difficulties. It can be very difficult to maintain ties with high school friends when young people move on -- maybe this event will help students solidify those bonds so they retain and build those friendships later because of this shared experience.

In life, lots of things will go wrong, not as we planned. Life is what happens while we're making other plans. Many of these kids would go on into their lives after graduation, and those things that seem so important now would fade almost to nothing or even seem trite. But graduating during the pandemic, and entering college under this shroud of uncertainty, the ways these kids make the best of it will not only help them appreciate what's important, they could lead to more positive and stronger memories for the rest of their lives. And at the least, it makes for better conversation at parties.

When I got married, to make a long story short, it was pouring rain, and my dad thoughtfully had a large umbrella to walk me to the church door. It got caught in the branches of an evergreen tree of some kind, and he said, wait! And as he yanked it free, all the water in the needles of the tree cascaded down the front of my face and my dress. It was actually not the worst thing to go wrong that day. The rest of that story is a memory I will cherish the rest of my life. Who needs everything to go right if you focus on what's important?

So I say to the students: Embrace life's imperfections. Really, seriously. Necessity is the mother of invention because people who don't need anything will never be motivated or as smart about an issue as people who go through a problem and have to fix it. We feel for you and what you lost, but we're excited for what you will do and be in the world. Embrace you families, some of you will go off to college and look back with gratitude for the time you had with siblings or your parents and grandparents, that you never had while you were studying so hard for school.

Embrace the need to take time and effort to maintain and nurture your friendships when you don't just have school making it easy for you to see friends every day. Embrace being able to experience the loss of something you were looking forward to and not only being okay with it, finding memories of meaning you cherish even more. When you graduate from college and get out on your own, you'll know what I mean.

The times to come in our world may be very hard, and they don't have to be, and it could depend all on your generation.

Hugs to you all. We in the community are proud of you.

1 person likes this
Posted by Embrace the imperfections
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2020 at 5:44 pm

"Despite the disappointment and anxieties about what's ahead, seniors said they have mostly come to terms with what they have no control over — a global pandemic — and are focusing on staying positive.

Suh, the Gunn senior, still plans to decorate her graduation cap regardless of when she'll be able to toss it in the air, surrounded by her classmates.

"I think there's a new sense that we're persevering through this together," she said. "


13 people like this
Posted by Staying Connected
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 9, 2020 at 9:20 am

Since many/most adolescents are seemingly tied to their smartphones 24/7, saying 'goodbye' shouldn't pose that much of a problem.

In fact, some (including adults) use texting & email to 'break up' so it is difficult to perceive this as much of a problem/issue.

Perhaps there's even an 'APP' for this purpose.

3 people like this
Posted by AMRW
a resident of another community
on May 9, 2020 at 8:55 pm

This is clearly going to be very difficult for high school seniors. They've spent a long time working for, and looking forwards to, these senior year traditions. But, in the long run, I think they will learn a lot from this unprecedented, historic, and incredibly difficult time in our shared history. They will be resilient and they will grow from this awful experience. That is my hope, anyway.
But, they do need the time and space to grieve the loss of these important, formative school experiences.

3 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2020 at 9:55 am

Many kids in school are not really your friends and don’t give a crap about you. Your real friends will maintain friendships beyond school and stay a part of your life.

Like this comment
Posted by People
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2020 at 9:10 am

> "Many kids in school are not really your friends and don’t give a crap about you."

^^^How true...the same can be said of various adult 'acquaintances' and family members.

Most of us reside in a very shallow world and "People who need people" as the old Barbra Streisand song goes, ARE NOT "the luckiest people in the world" but rather needy & insecure individuals.

It doesn't take a shrink to figure that one out...being your own best friend is usually the safest bet.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 12, 2020 at 9:14 am

Time to start planning my 50th. Hope lockdown is lifted before 2022.

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