In a little over a month, this year’s senior class will be graduating from high school and what a year it’s been.
Obviously, graduating during a pandemic, is not what they expected when they first entered high school.
“I think I didn’t realize the severity of it at the beginning,” student Avery Dooley said
Avery Dooley, Jaden Feterl and Max Mickelson were all juniors when the pandemic first hit last March.
They sat down with KELOLAND News via Zoom to talk about the pandemic.
Like a lot of us, when it first started, they thought it would be over in a few weeks.
“And then as we went throughout the year and a lot of my senior friends were disappointed about missing all their special activities; like prom and their graduation, I kind of started to realize the school district was taking this very seriously, as they should,” Dooley said.
“I thought it was going to be more like a two-week thing and I’d be back to school in person and not have to think twice about it, but then when the announcement came that the schools were going to be shut down for the rest of the year, I started to worry a little bit,” Jaden Feterl said.
Their fears weren’t unfounded.
Hallways went dark, gymnasiums sat empty and students switched to online learning for the remainder of the year.
A lot of their activities got cancelled and that includes this year too.
They quickly began to realize the virus was here for good and their lives would change forever as they prepared for their senior year.
“I thought there would be a lot of outbreaks, but I think it’s been contained really well, the school district has handled it really nice,” Dooley said.
All of them say the students are doing a good job of wearing their masks and trying to social distance when they can.
Don Jorgensen: Do you feel like you were sort of cheated a little bit of the last two years of your high school career?
Jaden: The experience that I had didn’t necessarily cheat me out of it just sort of added a new perspective to my schooling and the way I look at stuff.
“I definitely have missed a lot of opportunities that I would have enjoyed, but then again I think about the opportunities that I did have because of covid, I think it’s important to recognize the connections I made with people,” Dooley said.
All of them say they’re grateful to the Sioux Falls School District and school board for how they handled the pandemic back then, but they also appreciate all the hard decisions that went into getting them back into the classrooms for their final year.
“We missed out on opportunities like going to Spinsters and other high school activities, but also I think we have to note that we were pretty lucky to go to in person school, I mean, I know so many people who have been online the whole year,” Mickelson said.
Although it’s been tough, they say they have learned a lot about themselves and somehow through the support of their friends, teachers and parents, they’ve remained positive.
“I rolled with the punches as much as I could and sort of enjoyed every moment, I get it was one of those things, you take away some of the fun stuff, you know, the senior experience, but at the same time it’s still going to be unique, because it’s still my senior year, and covid was part of that,” Feterl said.
“I definitely think to remember something that I’ll tell my kids about one day and it’s definitely an experience like nobody has ever lived through before who is alive today, this is something the entire nation experienced the same hardship at once, something to tell your kids about,” Mickelson said.
“Looking back on this past year there’s been a lot of ups and downs, lots of crazy things going on, to say the least, but looking back on it I think it’s one of the most important events that has occurred in my young life, it’s going to be one of the things that shaped me and helped me learn to adjust and adapt under pressure,” Feterl said.
“What I’m going to take away from the pandemic is to appreciate the small things more like human connection, being able to see your family being able to gather in large groups all those things that I kind of took as they came I’m now going to appreciate them more and realize that I do miss them when they’re not there,” Dooley said.
Ironically they say it’ll be a senior year, they’ll never forget.
“One for sure I’ll tell my kids about, you know back in my day you had to drudge through snow, if you say I can’t breathe, I’d say I had to wear a mask back in my day, you know that type of thing,” Feterl said.
High school graduation will take place as normal this year, however, the district is asking graduates to only invite up to six guests to attend in-person and to wear a mask.