Check On Your High School Seniors—We Are Not Okay

They say that time flies, that you shouldn’t take high school for granted, that it’ll be over in the blink of an eye—and let me tell you, for the Class of 2020, the clichés are true.

When the bell rang on that Friday before spring break, Shawnee Mission East seniors walked out of our high school doors for the last time without even knowing it. We rushed toward our Plan B spring-break trips without savoring that last second together. We didn’t say goodbye to our favorite math teacher, skip the usual step on the staircase or high-five our table partner one last time. We didn’t get to bid a proper farewell to our classmates, some of whom have been by our side since kindergarten—and some of whom we may never see again.

We’re not alone. Everywhere, the Class of 2020 has been slighted. And we get it, or at least we will, with a little time. Instead of those monumental goodbyes, we got a tweet from our school district saying that our senior year—our high school career—was over. What should have been my right-of-passage senior spring break to Fort Lauderdale (looking back, maybe I would’ve been better off sticking to Mexico given the circumstances) turned into an indefinite one spent in quarantine.

Tulp (pictured center)

I, for one, feel cheated. Maybe I’m idealizing what high school movies have shown me since I was 5 years old, but this was supposed to be my moment. Moments. And here I am, mandated to lock myself at home, to social-distance myself from my friends during our final, fleeting moments together.

A virus that originated halfway around the world couldn’t have spread at a worse time. Within minutes, school was closed, prom was cancelled and our graduation was up in the air. Everyone knows the last quarter of your senior year is where everything happens. But we never thought this would happen.

I know, I sound selfish—high school is only four years of our entire life—but while looking for ways to cope we have to understand that we’re all in this together. Big picture, we’re all trying to understand. But it’s the smaller picture we’re trying to accept—the smaller, virtual picture of my friends and classmates on a laptop screen instead of in-person, in my classroom, walking across that stage.

Tulp (far left)

I’m still co-editor-in-chief of our student newspaper, The Harbinger. But gone are the days when we could pull kids out of class for interviews or spend Wednesday nights in the journalism room, frantically finishing our latest issue. Group FaceTimes and virtual design check-ins are the new norm for us because, even though school is over, there are still stories to be told. We’ll keep learning, publishing, and moving on—but it won’t be the same.

Had I known that Friday would be my last day at Shawnee Mission East, I would’ve done a lot of things differently. But there’s no use dwelling in the past—the only thing we, the Class of 2020, can do is move forward.

Tulp (middle)

So parents and families, check in on your high school senior. And seniors, check in on each other.

Facetime your friends for movie night and tune into your classes bright and early in the morning. Sing the school song one last time or hold a private graduation in your backyard. Don’t lose the connections you’ve made throughout some of the most important years of your life, because it’s true: high school ends in the blink of an eye.

-Lila Tulp is a senior at Shawnee Mission East and co-editor of the high school’s newspaper, The Harbinger.

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