HUNTERTOWN — Senior prom, basketball tournaments, concerts, hanging out with friends and graduation … these are the moments that create a lifetime of high school memories. For the class of 2020, however, this is not what they will remember. Instead, COVID-19, remote learning, social distancing and toilet paper shortages will comprise much of what will be remembered from senior year.
Carroll High School students Avery Butler, Isaac Lemley and Maya Wilkins were all enjoying their senior year when the COVID-19 pandemic brought a quick halt to their activities. The impact of the current world situation on their landmark year of high school has been a difficult thing to bear, for both the students and their families.
“My heart hurts,” said Kristen Lemley, mother of Isaac Lemley. “As a parent, we want to do so much for our children, but we have no control over the situation. This is like he fell off his bike and he needs a Band-Aid, but I can’t give him one.”
Each student has their own unique view of their shared experience.
“I was trying to make the most of my senior year,” said Avery Butler, 18. “I was going to all the games, went to all the Select Sound show choir preview nights and competitions, and I was getting excited for prom. Then everything got cancelled. Not getting to have these experiences stinks.”
Scheduled to attend Ball State University in the fall to study nursing, Butler was also eagerly looking forward to wrapping up her high school career with graduation and family parties. With the official closure of Indiana schools now extended to May 1, she is leery that the graduation ceremony will actually happen. “We ordered our caps and gowns, and were supposed to get them from school next week. Now I don’t know if we’ll be able to get them, or use them, or get refunds. There are so many questions to be answered.”
Butler is also fearful that family members who live out of state will not be able to journey to Indiana to celebrate with her. “My sister, my brother and my sister-in-law — they all live in North Carolina. Graduation is still scheduled, but my mom, who is a nurse, thinks it won’t happen. We’ve all worked so hard to get here. To not be able to walk for graduation would be really sad.”
Isaac Lemley, 18, says the hardest part of dealing with the pandemic is the uncertainty of what lies ahead. “We’re all trying to figure it out, one step at a time.”
A car enthusiast, Lemley plans to major in motorsport engineering at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in the fall. At Carroll, he is the leader of the Car Meets Club, a group for car enthusiasts. “I’m really missing hanging out with my friends and working on cars together. Once a month, we drive our cars to Hall’s and have breakfast. Now that’s not happening. I find myself missing the routine stuff.”
Not being able to hang out with friends and having to miss prom are also on Isaac’s list of regrets. “My girlfriend already bought her dress, I have a matching bow tie, and we were making all our plans for the prom. This would have been our second year of going to the prom together. We’d hoped it would be a special night. Now maybe we can make a nice dinner together and dance six feet apart,” he said with a laugh.
Lemley also noted that staying in shape has become much more of a challenge. “I was a swimmer, but our season ended. Now the pools are all closed. Gyms are closed, so you can’t go and work out. I’m going outside and riding my bike a lot, and maintaining my distance from other people.”
For Maya Wilkins, 18, “everything has been hard.” Wilkins has been active in many activities at Carroll, including writing for the school newspaper and participating in the Champions Together program. She intends to major in telecommunications/journalism at Ball State University in the fall.
“I have loved high school. It’s hard to grapple with the fact that I may not be able to go back. It’s really frustrating to deal with right now,” Wilkins said. “The last day of school — March 13th — was really tough. We all had a date in our minds when we would be done with school, and then we had teachers giving us speeches in class that, in essence, were telling us we’re probably done. I wasn’t ready to hear that yet. I still have things I wanted to do and say.”
Wilkins is also concerned about completing the two Advanced Placement classes on her school schedule. “I don’t know how they will handle AP testing now. That’s not something you can really do remotely, because there’s no way to monitor the testing process. I really want to have those classes completed for college credit.”
Missing prom is also tough for Wilkins. “I already have my dress. I bought it a couple of months ago, and I was really looking forward to going. It’s a special night for everyone, but especially when you’re a senior.”
Wilkins, Lemley and Butler are all attempting to maintain positive attitudes to complete their school year.
“I know it’s not selfish to feel sad for our class,” Wilkins said. “I’m trying to be positive. Every morning I make a list of why it’s going to be a good day. Teachers have been very accommodating, and they understand that this is a big deal for our class. I know the school administrators are going to do everything they can to make this the best nine weeks ever for us.”
Lemley noted that online schooling is “a little bit easier, so far. I think teachers know we’re less motivated to do homework now. We’re videoconferencing every day, and it‘s kind of funny to see all your friends in PJs for school.”
Although Butler is sad about how the school year is ending, she understands the reasons why. “This social distancing was done for a reason. We have to protect those who can’t protect themselves. This is a time when we should be thinking of people other than ourselves.” Butler is doing just that, helping her parents by taking care of her younger brother while they work. She says she is keeping her mind off the current situation by reading, doing crafts and spending time with her brother and sister — things she didn’t have a lot of time for before the pandemic.
All three seniors are also thankful for technology that allows them to stay in touch with their friends. “We’re checking up on each other regularly through FaceTime and texting. I never thought I’d miss school this much,” Wilkins said.
The Carroll High School Class of 2020 will be remembered as the class that was born during the turmoil and aftermath of 9/11, the class that lived through the economic downturns of the mid 2000s, and the class that wrapped up their school careers during a worldwide health crisis. “Not being able to experience what everyone else gets to experience is probably the hardest part for me,” Butler said. “But we’ll always remember what happened during our senior year.”