Coping with Covid: Seniors opt for alternative events to commemorate their last year of high school

Seniors gathered in the amphitheater for Senior Commitment Day during seminar on April 29. They placed star stickers on which colleges they would be attending in the fall. (Tyler Yuen)

Current UPA seniors began this school year in distance learning and experienced reopening during March of their junior year. UPA alumnus Oziel Reyez-Cruz graduated last spring and recalled the day the change first happened. In his experience in quarantine, Cruz has discovered that Zoom does not have to be used exclusively for school or meetings, but for recreation as well.

“I’ve seen people do Uno,” Reyez-Cruz said. “It was online—they connect themselves, or they watch a movie [while] on Zoom.”

Seniors gathered in two slots on March 19 to enjoy food from a taco truck and spend time with each other. There were 35 students in the first slot and remaining seniors in the second slot. Senior Xander Pantoja enjoyed the event.

“There are a small handful of people I haven’t been able to see because school has been out, so I think it’s definitely something good,” Pantoja said.

This event is one of the few chances seniors had to get together in person before they part ways in June.

“It’s definitely a good idea to try to get us feeling like we can still be a class together,” Pantoja said.

One of the minds behind the event was Ariana Rodriguez, a senior adviser and history teacher, who, along with other advisers and teachers, dedicated time toward planning special events and activities for seniors.

“Normally we’d have senior lunches every month, senior retreats, or the senior trip would be coming up in a day,” Rodriguez said. “We wanted to try and create events that will at least get the seniors to feel that, yes, we do care about them. We do want them to feel special because it is their senior year and do something that not other classes are able to do.”

COVID-19 eliminated most of the usual senior events.

“This school year was a special case because several plans for the year were scrapped due to changing COVID-19 guidelines that forced staff members to come up with new approaches to a memorable senior year,” Rodriguez said.

Despite the circumstances, the senior advisers and Executive Director David Porter banded together and, meeting by meeting, found a solution to the challenge brought about by COVID-19.

“In between me, Ms. Chen, Ms. Schwinge and other parties like Mr. Porter, we’ve kind of brainstormed some ideas and there’s actually this idea that I think I came up with—the goodie bags,” Rodriguez said. “ Let’s make it a treat, where they can come in, pick it up, the school pays for it and they take a picture and are able to see some of their friends and teachers.”