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Graduating During Pandemic: High School Seniors Reflect On Growing Up, Graduating In 2020

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The class of 2020 is going through an experience unlike any other. COVID-19 has taken otherwise normal rituals such as prom and graduation, forcing seniors to say goodbye and move on in a way they never could've prepared.

WCCO spoke with six Hopkins High School seniors in the modern classroom -- Zoom -- and alongside psychotherapist Dr. Corey Yeager.

Yeager asked the students if they have people in their lives who they can talk to and lean on during struggles. Everyone confirmed that they have such people, but most hadn't reached out.

"By leaning on those people in a time like this, I feel like I'm a burden on them," said Joe Ramlet.

Michael Mackey said it doesn't feel natural to reach out, as he considers himself an introvert.

"I'm just so used to keeping stuff bottled inside," said Mackey. "I just deal with it just when time goes on."

Timing seems to matter, too.

"There are thousands of other problems out there that are bigger than what we have," said Mollie Tankenoff. "Bigger than not being able to go out and live our normal lives."

Turns out, according to Yeager, missing out on things like prom and graduation, triggers very real feelings.

He says the brain is doing its natural job of asking, "What is going on here?"

And despite the many issues that come with a pandemic, the ones that affect you personally are, in fact, personal.

"They're big to me," said Yeager. "That doesn't diminish anyone else's issues by saying my issues are big to me, and they matter drastically to me."

The students also found ways their perspectives differ, despite similar circumstances. Rohee Konde plays football at Hopkins, will continue to play in college, and feels quarantine has relieved some pressure.

"Being around people your age, you want to try to act a certain way to get someone's approval," said Konde. "But when you're by yourself you can see what you want."

For Mallory Auth, being around peers is what she misses the most.

"I just want to be able to be with people without thinking that I'm putting them in harm," she said.

Faith Agboola is caught somewhere in between.

"It's just been kind of, a tug between my emotions," said Agboola. "I really want to be sad, but there's also some people who would kill for this opportunity to even graduate high school."

And that's enough to be unsettling, according to Yeager. He reminded students of something that they're fast-tracking today and will be valuable for the rest of their lives.

"Lean into the learning, even in situations that may seem negative," said Yeager. "Always think, there's something to learn in that situation, even though it might feel negative."

He also mentioned the cohort effect, which is who sone one becomes based on shared experiences.

This senior class, in 10, 20 years, will be defined in part by the pandemic.

Yeager said it could manifest itself with more anxiety, which tends to be amplified during isolation. He also believes they could have a tighter social network because they know what it's like to lose it.


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