Senior Sympathy: a brief glimpse of the Class of 2021’s feelings toward this school year

In March 2020, the class of 2021’s junior year, we expected life to return to normal after two weeks of lockdown, yet, almost one year later, we are completing our senior year online isolated from our friends, classmates and teachers. Senior year traditions lauded by media and entertainment to be milestones in our lives are in flux and in danger of not happening at all: prom, grad night, the first-last football game, et cetera, et cetera. Here in the journalism program, we developed an idea to let Hart seniors communicate their thoughts about this school year; we called it “Senior Sympathy.” I asked Hart seniors about how they felt about this school year and what the Hart administration can do to make it better. 

Question one: “How has the online format affected your senior year overall?” While each respondent had different opinions, most agreed that they miss the social aspect of school and feel the mental effects of being online. 

“[The online format] made [school] boring and easy. I had quite a depressing year. It’s hard not going out and having fun and socializing with classmates. I mean it was nice not having to get up as early every day but still. I miss going out during lunch with my friends and being around people. I’m honestly a lot less motivated to do anything anymore and feel like I have nothing to look forward to. This year really affected me in so many ways,” said Raegan Honey. 

Moreover, some also disliked the lack of separation between schoolwork and homework despite the later start times and easier work load. The online format has also taken a toll on mental health and student motivation.  

“It affected my year greatly, I feel like learning was very difficult and almost like I’ve missed out on a whole year of learning. Like most of us, I’ve struggled with depression because of life this past year and have experienced the opposite of what I’ve always dreamed of for my senior year,” said an anonymous respondent. 

Question two: “Do you think that our class, the class of 2021, is getting just as much support and praise as the class of 2020?” As the first class to experience a COVID senior year, the class of 2020 received lots of local, national and international support. As online school became the new normal, the unwavering support displayed for our now-graduated classmates has wavered as the class of 2021 entered their final stages of high school. Those who responded to this question all agree that our class has received less support but don’t blame any particular person. 

“I think that has to do more with the media than the school, however. Last year, the seniors got a lot of attention and special messages through different media channels like a congratulations from Timothée Chalamet or advice from John Mulaney, and our class hasn’t received that. That is obviously not the school though,” said Jessica Siegel. 

“I feel like we’ve been told and expected to just ‘suck it up’ while class of 2020 was very admired and babied and given lots of recognition. While we haven’t had our entire year and we’ve experienced no kind of special attention or opportunities or even a break/easing up on schoolwork/homework,” said another anonymous responder. 

Question three: “What is something the Hart administration can do for you to help make senior year better?” Each respondent said something different for this question. Anonymous proposed Hart TV celebrate a senior every day, and Ari Tilles suggested the school set up a big Zoom meeting where friends can meet in breakout rooms, much like ASB’s Club Rush. Honey expressed interest in an outdoor prom, and Amy Lucas also suggested a socially distant graduation by limiting tickets and having it streamed.

“I think brainstorming and creating COVID safe get togethers or opportunities would be great. Just seeing and knowing that my school cares about us and wants us to have a happy memorable senior year of any sort would be nice. I feel like a lot of us feel like the school doesn’t care about the seniors and haven’t shown enough empathy for us during a year we’ve all dreamed of and waited for,” said one anonymous response.

Lucas also proposed separating cohorts by grade-level for hybrid learning in order for the senior class and senior friend groups to stick together for the rest of the year instead of being split in half.  

“I have told many of my friends about this idea and they all expressed how much they loved this idea more than the original cohort idea based on last name. I believe it would be much more enjoyable for the seniors to be able to spend the time we have left together as the Class of 2021, instead of half of the Class of 2021,” said Lucas.  

However, some did think that forcing seniors to participate in online activities would be worse because students already spend hours of our day looking at screens.  

Question four: “Any other thoughts about this school year?” While our senior year was certainly unexpected and unprecedented, our respondents agree that the school and faculty are doing the best they can in these circumstances. 

“I appreciate everyone doing what they can to make this year enjoyable, and I think everyone will remember this year, even if it isn’t for the ways they originally thought. I hope we get some kind of graduation, and that the Class of 2021 can be together one last time,” said Tilles.