Graduation season for the High School Class of 2020 is not what anyone envisioned, with traditional activities cancelled across the country.
Abby Bannon, class president of her high school in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and her friend Grace Stewart, put that sense of loss into song, "Here's to You":
Remember on the first day
Walkin' through the hallway
Talking 'bout how we couldn't wait
To get to leave this place
"We just wanted to do something to recognize the seniors and just put words to their feeling that they might not be able to voice," Bannon told correspondent Rita Braver.
Well, here's to the ones that won't get a chance to
Take the field at their last home game
Or ask that girl to prom
William Ahn already had his senior prom outfit already picked out: "Yeah, I was definitely gonna wear a tux, 'cause you go out with a bang when it's senior year, right?" he laughed.
Instead, Ahn's senior year at Winston Churchill High in suburban Maryland is going out with a sigh. He does yoga with his older sister, and tries not to stress over missing graduation:
"Going up on stage, getting that diploma, and then having that walk, those like ten seconds that you have all to yourself, for your family members, I really wanted that moment to be for them," said Ahn.
He is like many high school seniors nationwide – summer internship in doubt, and wondering if college is even going to start in the fall. "We just don't know much," Ahn said. "And it raises some anxiety."
Some universities already say they will offer only online courses fall term; other schools are in limbo.
"We're doing all the planning we can to think about how we manage that scenario, even if the coronavirus is ongoing, but there's just an enormous amount of uncertainty," said Rebecca Blank, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Braver's alma mater).
Blank said both high school and college seniors have reason to feel bereft: "Rituals matter in our society. And you know, when you get to the end of one part of your life and go to another, that needs to be marked. Their life will go on, but they are right to feel cheated a little bit out of that."
Instead of the usual "Jump Around" in the Wisconsin Stadium, grads watched from home, as author James Patterson delivered a virtual commencement address, from his kitchen: "Tough breaks happen in life; they just do," Patterson said. "They're happening to all of you guys right now. I'd like to suggest persistence and resilience."
Senior Marie Aguirre really missed seeing Patterson in person: "I have a full tuition scholarship to Madison, sponsored by Sue and Jim Patterson," she said.
Now in her tiny hometown of Minoqua, Wisconsin, Aguirre is mourning the moments she didn't get with college friends, and hoping her new job as a financial analyst is secure.
Braver asked, "Do you think people from your generation ever expected to have to face these kinds of challenges?"
"Not this one specifically, no," Aguirre replied. "Especially your last year of college, going home to your parents when you've just started to become really independent and really embraced that independence. It's very different than anything we expected."
Yogev Ben-Yitschak, an Israeli immigrant, stayed on in Madison after the university closed to help run the free food pantry for students. "We thought the demand would be down, because a lot of students left," Ben-Yitschak said. "But we actually have seen an increase in our users."
Along with many in the Class of 2020, he is job hunting in a bleak market.
Braver asked, "What's your mood right now as all this is happening?"
"I think sad. I think worried," he replied. "A lot of places that I'm applying to come back to me and they say, 'We're having a hiring freeze. Apply when we're hiring again.'"
Jada Thomson was planning to nanny for a family in Paris this summer. But like many college seniors, Thomson finds solace in volunteering. She works as an EMT in Belleville, Wisconsin, picking up patients who could have COVID 19.
She's still planning on medical school.
Braver asked, "Does the fact that doctors are so much at risk in all of this, has that made you re-think whether you want to be a doctor or not?"
"Not at all," Thomson replied. "I think it's made me appreciate the nobility that goes into the role all the more. And not just doctors: PAs, nurses, all of the hospital staff."
And Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank urges all Seniors to study how their forebears rose to challenges, from World War II, to Viet Nam, to September 11: "When you talk to the alumni from those time periods, as hard as it was, it gives them a sense of direction and a focus and an intensity, and a memory that's very deep. This year's graduating class, they will have a sense of bonding and of purpose that comes out of this."
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Story produced by Amy Wall. Editor: George Pozderec.