COMMENTARY: COVID-19 doesn’t stop California seniors from making memories

April 13, 2020 /

For the graduating high school seniors, 2020 was supposed to be epic. We were supposed to create memories, go to prom and walk the stage.

But 2020 has gone much differently and has been full of tragic surprises across the world. Fires coursed through Australia, America was on the brink of war, and the death of the legendary basketball player, Kobe Bryant, were only the start to this year. 

And then COVID-19 happened. The disease has killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world and caused health care systems to collapse.  

As a result, Governor Newsom announced the closure of all California schools. Many seniors hoped to return to school to see friends and learn in the classroom.

As a senior myself, this hurt the most. We stepped into the classrooms for the last time, not knowing it, and we had our last cafeteria lunch with our friends. Proms have been cancelled, senior activities are out of question, and many school graduations are no longer.

I am devastated that everything we looked forward to since we started school has been taken away by COVID-19. The events, the ceremony, and the memories that I have looked forward to were gone in a matter of days.

However, in the midst of this global pandemic, three high school seniors across the state have decided to take action.

“I initially felt robbed of such an influential time in my time that was supposed to be filled with cornerstone memories,” said Redwood High senior Drake Goodman. “But rather than sulk and feel bad for myself, I was presented with an opportunity to still have a memorable senior year and pass that on to other”

Courtesy of California Class of 2020

Goodman, Luis Esteva Suerio from Sonoma Valley High, and Prince Takano decided to make the most of the situation by starting a group on social media called “California Class of 2020.” 

“Fundamentally, we’re just a bunch of high school seniors, disappointed by the end of our high school career, trying to make the best of the situation,” said Esteva Suerio. 

 I joined the group, along with more than 250 ASB leaders across California, to help create memories to seniors.

Jay Alonzo, a senior at Edison High, said he hopes “through working with California’s Class of 2020, he can potentially make others feel at ease and connected to one another during this hard time.”

California’s Class of 2020 is made up of eight committees that use digital outlets to offer fun events for graduating seniors across the state.

Parneet Sahota is a senior at Cesar Chavez High School in Delano.

There is the Spirit and Contests committee, led by Brian Rubio from San Diego County, the Outreach committee, led by Alonzo from Stockton, the New Ideas committee, led by Kaydence Walker from Mariposa County, the Live Streams committee, led by Sofia Davit from Yuba City, a Tik Tok committee, led by Ella Tichy from Southern California, a NorCal vs. SoCal committee, led by Lily Johnson from Southern California, a YouTube and Video committee, led by Alex Wick from Oakland, and a Creative Design committee, led by Ericka Louie from Southern California. 

If we want to make our senior year memorable, there is a lot that needs to be done.

The Spirit and Contests committee, for example, is working to achieve statewide, online participation by creating spirit days. The Outreach team, which I help with, communicates with non-profit organizations, radio stations, news channels, and students to spread the word. The New Ideas group focuses on turning ideas into a reality, and the Livestream committee engages the followers on social media with the latest information. The NorCal vs. SoCal committee creates healthy and fun competition between the state, and the YouTube committee ensures no senior’s sports season, performing arts talent, or any achievement goes unrecognized because of a global pandemic.

Youth have power, and this pandemic has made them realize its potential.

“The amount of people who have never met each other have come together to help create a movement for students who were robbed of their senior years,” said Brian Rubio, senior at Vista High school.

The group has already rolled out spirit week events, competitions and challenges, and it has begun using social media platforms to inspire seniors across the state to enjoy this time with one another.

“High school is a memorable time in everyone’s lives and it’s tragic that every student has had their experience taken away,” said senior Lauren Hizon. “We are trying to give everyone back that opportunity — to make the most out of their high school experience.” 

Kern Sol News is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.

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Parneet Sahota

Parneet is a youth reporter for South Kern Sol. She is part of South Kern Sol's Delano branch.