COVID vs. Class of 2020

In these unprecedented times, seniors cope with missed moments


Photo courtesy of Sid Ram

Senior Michael Kyrychenko with other members of the Prom planning committee and the Class of 2019 sponsors. Several members of the Class of 2020 were disappointed that Prom, an event they spent all year looking forward to, was cancelled.

Friday. March 13. 4:30 p.m. The parking lot is almost empty, save a few scattered cars. The scoreboard, dim. The chatter of students on the track is replaced by the soft whistle of the wind. Beyond the fences, there’s only one student in sight. 

Senior Jae Canetti is standing on the baseball field for the last time. 

On March 23, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam ordered all K-12 schools to be closed for the remainder of the academic year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For Jefferson seniors, this meant that March 12 was unknowingly the last day of their high school career. A whole semester of milestones and senior traditions suddenly banished before the eyes of seniors such as Canetti.

Missing Prom and Graduation

Some of the largest milestones for seniors include prom and graduation. Jefferson’s 2020 prom was set to take place at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.. It took meticulous planning on the part of Jefferson administration, 2020 class sponsors, as well as the student prom planning committee.

One of the six seniors on the prom planning committee, Michael Kyrychenko, was disappointed that the hard work put into making prom come to life went down the drain. 

“The prom planning process was definitely a lot of work. There were many different fluctuating variables that affected what we could do, such as the senior dues, revenue projections, and the estimated number of guests,” Kyrychenko said.I was pretty disappointed to lose prom, lots of the plans ended up going down the drain. But we’re hoping that 2021 will benefit from the groundwork we’ve laid and maybe choose to adapt some of our plans.” 

On a similar boat as prom, graduation did not occur as normally scheduled. One of the six seniors on the graduation planning committee, Aastha Mistry, wanted the closure that a traditional graduation provided. 

“Although graduation doesn’t require as much planning as prom it’s still disappointing because we were really excited for our speakers and the whole event in general. I know we can get our diplomas in other ways that aren’t the traditional type of graduation, but we had specifically waited for this moment for four years,” Mistry said. “It was supposed to be the culmination of all of the time and effort we put into our education and extracurricular at TJ. And graduation itself is there to provide closure. Even though there are alternatives being created in place of the traditional graduation it’s still hard to create that feeling of closure.”

For others such as senior Jessica Chen, missing prom and graduation was not the end of the world.

“Personally, I’m not too torn about missing prom or graduation. They’re nice, but four hours of name butchering or twelve hours of expensive partying is not really my thing. As cheesy as it sounds, what I miss most is the collection of random things I had planned to do with friends,“ Chen said. 

Canetti shares the same sentiment, detailing that second semester was filled with more than just prom and graduation to look forward to. 

“You can reschedule prom and graduation but you can’t reschedule second semester and all the things we were looking forward to that don’t necessarily have some big event tag on them. For me those were way more important than walking across the stage or prom pics,” Cannetti said.

The beginning of the end

Other than prom and graduation, second semester is known for being a time where seniors can relax without the stress of grades and college admissions. Filled with activities such as beach week and skip days, seniors looked forward to this time as a culmination of their time in high school.

“I really wanted to go to HackTJ or attempt the Philly cheesesteak challenge where you go to first period to take attendance, leave school, drive up to Philadelphia to get a cheesesteak, then get back before the final bell,” Chen said. 

On the other hand, Canetti, like many other student athletes, wanted to finish out the spring sports season. Canetti was a pitcher on Jefferson’s Varsity Baseball team.

“I did end up missing out on all of senior baseball season which was definitely the biggest loss. Then there’s just those last couple of weeks before school ends when all the classes get easier and the weather is good and baseball is having playoffs and literally everything is amazing and that’s my favorite part of the whole school year. I look forward to it whenever I’m struggling,” Canetti said.

A bittersweet goodbye

As the seniors reflect on the abrupt ending of their high school careers, they realize some things they wish they had done differently. Kyrychenko wants to emphasize to underclassmen the value of time with friends.

“My advice to underclassmen would be to appreciate all of the time you have with your friends now, because before you know it, it will all be over. I thought I had more time, and it all ended so fast,” Kyrychenko said.

As a mentorship student, Chen, like Kyrychenko, wishes she had spent more time during first semester with her friends and having fun. 

“In retrospect, I spent all of first semester telling myself that I have to work hard and focus on classes or college apps. It didn’t matter if I was putting off friends or depriving myself of any “fun”—as long as I worked a little harder then, I’d have time to indulge in whatever I want later on,” Chen said. “A lot of TJ kids will always believe that school comes first, but taking care of friends and yourself is as important to life as other matters.”