Emily Walos is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Publisher at Citrus Valley High School for Ethic News.
By EMILY WALOS
These are the faces of the class of 2022. Each one of them with their own stories, their own personalities, their own perspectives. These Citrus Valley Seniors include: Sierra Alexi, Eric Mollenkopf, Maura Abulkheir, Aryannah Gonzalez, Steve Gutierrez, Austin Limon, Le Telier Phillips, Fatima Ortiz, Andrew Castillo, Emerson Sutow, Delilah Perez, Elena Ramirez, Jaylene Ramirez, Jocelyn Montiel, Kayla Sultan, Verites Miller, Jenna Negrete, Kiara Callender, Jeremy D’Ambra, Mia Hale, Kaley Jennings, Kalani Allen, Katelyn Mast, Itzel Zaragoza Gomez, Karissa McDonald. (EMILY WALOS/Ethic News)
I have only six more months before the supposed biggest shift of my life; however, my life already took this shift at 15-years-old, when my classmates and I thought we had scored an extra week of spring break.
I was in my 2nd period honors math class when I first heard about this new highly contagious sickness that was dominating Asian countries and was slowly making its way to the United States. My friends were on the track team and they were hoping that, by some miracle, their coaches would cancel a practice or two.
Spring break came, and in the second week, everyone in the Redlands School District received the emergency emails and phone calls, informing them of the school closure for the following week. When I first heard this news, I was selfishly ecstatic; at the time I did not fully understand the gravity that COVID-19 would hold on not only my life but the billions of the world.
One extra week, turned to two, turned to three, turned what seemed like indefinitely. There was fear for the class of 2020 as their high school experience went from that of ordinary to that of historical. Their last months of high school, including some of the biggest moments of their lives such as graduation, were canceled.
Now, I saw this a horrible chance of fate for the class of 2020, however I had hope for the class of 2021 and my junior year. That hope was crushed with the announcement of the 2020-2021 school year remaining in distance learning. Through my junior year I did not leave my house much, as my mom strictly followed quarantine and COVID guidelines, as I have elderly grandparents, young cousins, and a young niece who were all at high risk. My best friend and I would even quarantine two weeks before and after seeing each other.
After Thanksgiving break I accepted that I would not be going back to school that year and had finally become comfortable with my distance learning routine; but, new hope came. The CDC announced that high school sports would be allowed to resume with proper regulation. For me a Varsity swimmer, this was an act of benediction, yet cause of dismay. However, my swim season went smoothly, and it seemed to be the only glimpse of normalcy I had the entire school year.
Then there was an unexpected announcement. All teachers, school staff, and some voluntary students were to return to in-person class, with only a few more weeks left in the school year.
At this point I was fully vaccinated and COVID numbers were dropping, however I was still not willing to take the risk. I chose not to opt-in to the return, as I had also finally become comfortable with my at home learning.
The class of 2021 was going to recieve their graduation, of course with restrictions and a mask mandate. This was the only semi-ordinary senior experience that the class had.
Summer went by and it was almost time to return to school for my senior year of high school. I was scared. Scared that my high school experience would be whittled down to that of a freshman year and partial sophomore year.
We received the news about the upcoming school year, and the verdict was: school will reopen for all students for the 2021-2022 school year. My friends and I were ecstatic.
Coming back it was almost weird, not because I was gone so long, but rather that the old faces I had come to learn and love vanished. Now there was a whole new crowd and me along with the rest of the class of 2022 were expected to be the leaders of campus and show an example of how to act as a student of Citrus Valley High School.
Grow up, be strong, set an example, this should be normal. No, this is not normal.
From the moment that 2022 stepped onto campus they were pledged into the role and expectations of a mature senior.
Under normal circumstances the expectations fallen onto seniors is completely reasonable, however, for 2022 when they left they were sophomores, most of the age of 15. They were still learning what it meant to be a high schooler, observing what maturity looked like, seeing how to take pride in their school and make their own.
They were stripped of that virtual year and a half to develop the proper mindset to age to that of a senior.
When they all returned they were not the same students they had been when they left, like the rest of the school population they faced the tragedy and horror that COVID carried.
However, it was the adults on campus who tried to act as if they were all only coming back from a longer break such as winter or summer. They tried to put on their happy faces through their masks and pretend this was any other normal year; but it’s not.
This year is not normal. They (class of 2022) have all just faced one of the scariest things a child, or any adult for that matter, could go through. The fear of isolation, sickness, and death. To believe that they could all come back from this experience unchanged is hysterical.
No pressure was lifted from the seniors. Colleges still expected their high grade point averages, volunteer hours, and extracurriculars. High schools still expected all the responsibilities of a senior to be upheld. Adults expected hard working and maturing young adults, hoping to release them into society in a few months.
Through just the process of time and experience, yes the seniors did mature. However, that maturity did not come from the experiences of past generations but rather that of a time of the unknown. In the way of coping with a constantly changing world and loss, seniors have built up a wall of strength. It is when it comes to maturity of social principles that they are lacking. This is not their fault in any form, it is simply the result of being separated from society for over a year and a half living in a world of dread.
It is as though every teen of 2020-2022 is stuck in a time capsule, and when this time capsule was finally broken open, it was a whole new place of time.
Becoming a senior comes with some of the most promising times of high school; and the adults of schools have been promising these legendary events to seniors getting their hopes up, however these promises are empty. All seniors still live in fear every moment that their year will be ripped away from them such as it was for the class of 2021. It is the fact that 2022 is receiving this false hope from the adults who they look up to and trust which is what makes this time truly terrible.
This raises the question, should adults be bluntly honest, that they are uncertain of the times ahead? Will the students appreciate this more or just create pessimism towards the days left for the class of 2022? This uncertainty speaks to the maturity of 22 and shows the vulnerability of the time; proving that normal has not yet come.
Now, it is 2022 and graduation year for seniors; the pressure is on. It is the final stretch in adolescence. They have the pressures of the world on them as they are expected to uphold the responsibilities of adulthood no longer “one day in time” but exactly in six months. This supposed time of prosperity and youthful ventures is being corrupted by fear and anguish as COVID cases are once again on the rise leaving the class of 2022 to wonder if their time is up.