By KYLIE HAMMACK
Union High School Senior
The effects of COVID-19 are so wide-reaching, I think it’s safe to assume few on the planet remain unimpacted.
As a Union High School student who was entering the last quarter of her junior year when the pandemic hit, the influence of COVID-19 has been especially drastic. Classes were hurriedly canceled, and what was supposed to be spring break did not end until August.
Although Union’s extended school break is over, business has not exactly resumed as usual. With 35% of students enrolled in the district’s virtual learning program and a mask mandate for attending in-person, it’s hard to label this school year as anything close to normal.
When the Union Board of Education voted in July to return to in-person classes for the semester, it was hard for me to imagine going back to school during a pandemic. With the district superintendent, the Union Classroom Teachers Association and the Tulsa Health Department advising against an in-person return, the decision felt temporary and the school year uncertain.
Reflecting on these sentiments in October during my fall break, I cannot say I feel any different about this semester.
Though school has remained in session since August, the variability of living and attending school during a pandemic prevents me from having much confidence in one vision of the future.
Yet, the peculiarity of this year has made returning to school special in some ways. The events of spring and summer have made the importance of school even more apparent to me than before. Now, I rarely take an in-person lesson from my teachers for granted because I remember last spring when I was teaching myself chapter after chapter of material to prepare for Advanced Placement testing. I remember what it was like sitting at home for months, not seeing my friends or teachers, and yearning to be back at school.
Attending high school looks a lot different now than before COVID-19, with many school events canceled and classmates quarantined, but I have learned to be grateful for what little normalcy this semester has provided.
The challenges of the pandemic have also forced my friends and me to get creative with ways to stay safe and have fun.
Every day during our lunch hour, my friends and I take our lunches out to the parking lot, pull out the lawn chairs stored in the back of my car, and set up our version of a spread-out tailgate. By avoiding being in the building when everyone takes their masks off for lunch, we have found a unique way to stay safe and get some fresh air.
When school events such as back to school bash were canceled, my classmates in leadership organized “Senior Sunrise” so Union High School class of 2021 would have an outdoor event to make memories and mark the beginning of senior year.
Ideas like these have allowed me to create fond memories of my senior year despite the trials brought on by the virus.
Through the many ordeals of 2020, I have learned an important lesson: take each day one at a time. With the process of applying to college disrupted by delayed standardized tests, canceled extracurricular activities, and an incomplete junior year, my future is more uncertain than ever before.
Even so, I would not change anything about this year. My experiences – good and bad – have taught me a lot about being grateful, flexible and content. The challenges posed to my graduating class are immense, but they have ultimately brought us closer than ever before and provided for the most memorable senior year yet.