Whatever plans you had for 2020, they probably didn’t include a worldwide pandemic.
Like when Zoe Barnes, 18, of Holy Spirit High bought her graduation dress, a black V-neck decorated with mauve flowers, and scheduled her hair and make up appointments for the big night.
Like other Grade 12 students, she anticipated a graduation night with all the trimmings: the supper, the ceremony, the dance and the party; the accumulation of a twelve-year school career, the last big ‘hurrah’ before adulthood.
That of course, did not happen. The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) announced in March that schools would be closing, bringing an abrupt end to the school year — and any plans for a grand graduation celebration.
“It was disappointing, but it was something I was expecting, because school was closed down, and people had lost their jobs,” said Barnes, who said the realization of that helped soften the blow of disappointment.
“My friends and I the other day got some pictures done — keeping at a safe distance,” she added.
She has plans to attend Keyin College’s Funeral Services program in Grand Falls-Windsor in the fall, and said she doesn’t know yet if the program will still go ahead as scheduled due to the pandemic, making it difficult to plan for the fall.
Countless students across the province (and country) have found themselves in the same, strange situation; their last year of high school, cut short, and their post-secondary program, if not cancelled, accessible only online, and not in the classroom.
“I wanted to be able to spend my last few months of school with my friends, and say the proper goodbye that I wanted,” said Queen Elizabeth High School graduate Olivia McDonald, 17. “It wasn’t what I imagined for a last year.”
Like many other students, McDonald, who, as a type 1 diabetic is considered high risk to complications from Covid-19, made the best of a bad situation, donning the dress and getting the photos taken.
She looks forward to attending Memorial University in the fall – online of course— and embraces the challenge with optimism.
“Starting university online will be a big adjustment, but I’m going to embrace it for what it is and make the best of it,” said McDonald, who’s looking at taking Police Studies.
Another Queen Elizabeth graduate, Brianna Porter, 17, explained that to miss grad was to miss an important milestone.
“Grad is such a huge milestone in a person’s life. And especially for girls — we plan ahead, and we pick our dress, and it’s such a huge thing,” she said.
Disappointing also, was having her final year of high school cut short.
“It was very disappointing, because I didn’t get to finish my graduation year with all of my friends,” she explained. “We didn’t really have any closure. We didn’t know that our last day was our last day.”
Porter said there’s talk of a ceremony happening in November, but before that, she will have begun her university classes — online.
“The transition from high school to university is surely a huge one in and of itself and having classes online is only going to make it harder,” said Porter, who will be working towards a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Behavioural Neuroscience, at Memorial University.
The NLESD has not yet made a decision whether schools will reopen in September. Both Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic have opted for online classes until at least January of 2021.