Although the coronavirus pandemic erased the annual ritual for high school seniors to walk across the stage for graduation ceremonies this year, they’re receiving virtual gifts from sports stars, musicians and other celebrities.
Former President Barack Obama plans to give remarks Saturday, May 16 for a one-hour special called “Graduate Together: High School Class of 2020 Commencement.” It’s scheduled to be televised on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and various social media platforms commercial-free thanks to one of the event organizers, the LeBron James Family Foundation.
Two weeks later on May 30, award-winning actor Taraji P. Henson will serve as commencement speaker during a virtual ceremony for the 8,000-member Prince George’s County public school senior class. Henson, a 1988 graduate of Oxon Hill High School, will be joined by other prominent alumni including singer and songwriter Kenny Lattimore, radio personality Joe Clair and Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden.
The event will air at 7 p.m. on WJLA-TV and again the following day at noon.
Prince George’s seniors will be one of the first groups in Maryland to complete their last day on Friday, May 15.
Before their secondary education officially ends, 10 of their classmates shared some of their senior moments and provided some guidance for the upcoming Class of 2021.
Here are some of the reflections they wrote and submitted to The Informer:
School: Gwynn Park
Future plans: Attend University of Maryland in College Park to pursue business management with a focus on supply chain management
I am the senior class president at Gwynn Park High School. Before the COVID-19 virus pandemic, our class had many activities planned for the rest of the school year. When my class and I heard that our prom and graduation were in jeopardy, we felt heartbroken. My class and I were looking forward to going to prom and walking across the stage at graduation. My experience amidst this coronavirus has been very satisfying. My teachers have done an incredible job teaching and making sure we all understand what we are being taught. I am also able to communicate and help my friends when we have zoom calls. Zoom has also been an extremely useful app that has helped everyone stay in touch to ensure we are all doing fine during this pandemic. Although I would rather learn face-to-face, learning online has been a better experience than I predicted. The Gwynn Park High School Class of 2020 hopes everyone is safe and healthy.
School: Eleanor Roosevelt
Future plans: Lincoln Tech for automotive technology
High school — it’s the best of times and the worst. You should enjoy it while it last because you never know when it will end. It may seem like a bad place and you don’t want to be there, but you will create memories that last a lifetime. As a senior, you have certain responsibility, you set the energy level for the whole school. The lowerclassmen look up to you. Show them your pride and lead them on a good path of greatness. Class of 2021, one lesson that you should have learned from this whole event is don’t take anything for granted. Live in the moment and don’t have any regrets. Thank you. Class of 2020 out.
School: Eleanor Roosevelt
Future plans: Attend Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, to major in biology
These four years of high school really did fly by. The little naive freshmen that walked through the doors of Eleanor Roosevelt High School would have never guessed she would be spending the last few months of her senior year stuck at home. This time has allowed me to reflect about my high school experience. It was filled with stress, anxiety attacks, depression and multiple all-nighters. I will never forget Friday night football games, losing my voice after screaming at the opposing school’s basketball team and getting judged by my neighbors for wearing a crazy outfit to school for spirit week. If I had to give one piece of advice it would be to savor it. It may seem like the homework and tests may never end, but it will. My biggest regret is not attending school events due to fear and schoolwork. Take risks! Ask that person to a school dance or go to that basketball game even though it is a school night. The thought of not having a prom or graduation has been haunting me. I am comforted in knowing that all my classmates will succeed and do great things because the Class of 2020 is strong.
School: Gwynn Park
Future plans: Attend Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to major in elementary education
It was instilled in me to work hard, be productive and establish realistic goals that would lead me to the promising outcome of graduating from high school with honors. I was told and I have witnessed other perks that go along with being a senior such as prom, senior night, senior cookouts and graduation. These are events I have looked forward to all my life. However, it has been taken away from me. It is an indescribable feeling that I believe no one truly understands. Past graduates, parents [and] grandparents are all saying, “Oh you guys will be OK” [and] “there will be other times to be celebrated.” It is designed to happen once in a lifetime. We will never get this time back. Not only has my high school goal been compromised, but the hope and excitement of entering college is becoming blemished. I [must] learn to live with a new vision of my future. This is scary to embrace. My words to my fellow classmates: despite the raw deal that we have been given, there is still a greater purpose for our class. Let’s strap up and get ready for the new journey that lies ahead for us.
Future plans: Attend Catholic University in Northeast to study computer science
One piece of advice that I would give to the Class of 2021 is “focus but have fun.” Senior year is notoriously known as “the most stressful year of high school.” Seniors are found constantly worrying about college applications, recommendations, service hours, grades, current schoolwork and [other] responsibilities. The large and sudden workload overwhelms most students, and as they struggle with balancing everything, many begin to lose [faith] in their ability to do well in college. But one thing I learned, especially with everything going on in the world right now, is that time waits for no one. Like many other seniors, as I now plan my college career, I cannot help but think back to the fun I had during my senior year; the internships I participated in, the pep rallies, the Mock Trial competitions, the band concerts and more. However, there were times where I would feel overwhelmed and burnt out from the work I did. But I did not let the work be the only experience. Senior year is full of experiences and memories, regardless of what is happening around you. Memories that will last you a lifetime.
Future plans: Attend Howard University in Northwest to major in political science
I can’t wait to be a senior! That was probably the most frequent thing I’ve said throughout my entire high school experience. Now that I look back, I should’ve waited. Receiving the opportunity to go to prom, have a senior cookout and walking across the stage at graduation is something I’ve looked forward to since I was young. Unfortunately, all those things have been stripped away. I’ve had a pretty unusual high school experience. I started as a naive girl who did not know much about her future. I soon began to develop and learn more about myself. I became a leader and it molded me with a mindset that made me fathom what I want my future to be. I was also able to skip the 11th grade and join the wonderful Class of 2020. Many would say that was a bad idea, but all the laughs, friendships, and memorable occasions I’ve endured were all worth it. Now it is time for the Class of 2021 to rise. Despite all the unfortunate circumstances we’ve all gone through, it’s your time to shine. Every one of us has worked strenuously and it will soon pay off!
Future plans: Attend Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, to pursue a double major in education and English
Never in a million years would I have ever thought my senior year at Friendly High School would play out the way it did. It was a journey like no other, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Well, only the ending of course. Being a high school senior is one of the greatest feelings in the world, and to have it cut short is heartbreaking. It saddens me deeply to know that my classmates and I won’t get to celebrate our hard work the way we anticipated. It all feels like a never-ending nightmare. I don’t know what advice I could give to the class of 2021. I hope a worldwide pandemic doesn’t interrupt your highly awaited senior year. I want you to know your senior year will test you. You’ll be forced to know what you want to do and who you want to be by the time it’s all over. It’s okay not to know! We’re told what route we should and shouldn’t take, defy the odds! Find yourself and be who you want to be. Most importantly, have fun! To the class of 2020, I love you and you’re a lot stronger than you think.
Future plans: Attend Louisiana State University to major in political science with a minor in youth development
The beginning of it all — maturing, first heartbreak and the beginning of adulthood. Freshman year you begin by not knowing anyone. I was the shy girl. I attended my first football game and noticed school wasn’t as intimidating as I thought. On to my sophomore year [and] start to get the hang of things. This was my start of AP classes and the year I got my learner’s permit. Then comes junior year. Start taking the ACT and the SAT looking for colleges. During the summer you take your senior pictures. Then we’re here [for] the year everybody dreams of — senior year. You start applying to colleges. Then you attend your last homecoming dance, last football game and last spirit week. My high school experience was nothing short of great. The long laughs, long hours of studying and also the long cries. If I could tell anyone about high school, live and act as if no one is watching. I’ve had times I wanted to give up and quit. High school is an opportunity you only get once. Don’t worry about that test. You’ll do great. Don’t worry about drama. It’ll be ok. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Live for today.
School: High Point
Future plans: Attend the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York, to major in political science
March 13, 2020: I didn’t think it would be the last time I would be in school [to] see my friends and teachers and plan for senior events. Even though my senior year didn’t end as expected, the first few months were memorable. I will cherish them forever. The beginning of my senior year started with excitement, preparing and planning for homecoming and spirit week. That turned out to be a huge success. We all planned about what we would wear to prom and what we would do for graduation. Although those big events aren’t happening due to COVID-19, it has taught me to be more appreciative of what we have in the present and to never take things for granted. Tomorrow is not always promised so we have to make the best of it every day. For future seniors, I hope they never have to go through this because it’s disheartening. I would advise them to make the best out of high school. Go to school events with friends and get out of your comfort zone. These things only come once in a lifetime and future seniors should make the most out of it.
Maricela Vigil Rios
School: Fairmount Heights
Future plans: Attend Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park to major in biology
Stay focused and finish your last year strong, but at the same time, don’t stress yourself out too much. There will be times where you just want to give up. Remind yourself you made it this far so you can’t quit. A lot of seniors can’t wait to graduate, but my advice is to take it slow and enjoy the little moments, especially those spent with family and friends. After high school, you might not see your friends as often so live in the moment. Get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Meet new people, create beautiful memories and participate in school activities. Take advantage of any help provided to you because not everyone is fortunate enough to have those resources. I am thankful for the people who helped me along the way. I am especially thankful for my parents. Don’t pass up on opportunities that can have a positive impact on your life. When it comes to applying for college, don’t procrastinate and get everything done. If you don’t know what you want to study, don’t stress yourself out too much, you have time to figure it out. “Cree en ti misma,” [meaning] believe in yourself.