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LISTEN: NYC teens want their senior year back

Leanne Nunes
Leanne Nunes, a high school senior in the Bronx.

This is part of an ongoing collaborative series between Chalkbeat and WNYC/Gothamist reporting the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on how New York students learn and on how educators teach.

This is not how high school seniors envisioned taking their victory lap at the end of their school year.

It’s not just the big, up-in-the-air things like prom and graduation (although those are big things to many students). It’s also the everyday shuffle of the hallways, grabbing pizza with friends after school, the dashed spring break plans, and the gnawing feeling that this wasn’t how things were supposed to end.

That’s what WNYC/Gothamist and Chalkbeat are hearing from many high school seniors across the five boroughs. Granted, some are declaring “senioritis” and saying they were happy to stop reporting to class sooner than expected. Here are a few perspectives from the class of 2020:

These stories have been shared with permission; the written accounts below are based on survey results and follow-up interviews and have been edited for length and clarity.

Chasiti Reed, senior at Brooklyn Collaborative who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant

A lot of the girls at my school had already gotten our dresses for prom. I already got mine. I definitely won’t be able to wear it anywhere else. Maybe I’ll sell it. I just hope that New York City spares us some kindness and let’s us continue the school year, so we can have our prom and graduation, even if it’s at a later date. We all work really, really hard. We deserve it.

I’m hoping to get into the nursing program at Medgar Evers College. I want to become a midwife. My mom and I were talking about it; If I did nursing, I’d start interning at hospitals. I know there’s this outbreak of this virus going on and it might still be dangerous for a long time. We don’t know how sanitary everything is.

Giancarlo Herrera, senior at NEST+M who lives on the Upper East Side

To describe it lightly, I’d call it an anticlimax. The last few months of senior year are supposed to be just peachy; everyone’s wondering where they’re going to go for college or what they’re going to do for prom. Now I’m stuck inside, killing my Netflix subscription in between classes.

If things like graduation get canceled, it wouldn’t personally upset me, but it would sort of be sad looking back in 10 to 20 years and wondering what was prom like, what was graduation like. You miss all those hallmarks that everyone else is going to be bragging about once COVID-19 blows over. In a way, it feels like you’re robbed of those final experiences.

I’m enlisting in the Navy, so I’ll be off to boot camp for my summer. The timing is slightly uncertain now. I may have to be scheduled for September ship-out. I’m not worried so much about what happens next year — I have my contract and my job is guaranteed — what’s happening right now concerns me the most.

Leanne Nunes, senior at a public school in the Bronx

Personally, I’m doing great. I’m sleeping in more, and I feel like I have way more agency over my body than I would in the classroom. School buildings are basically factories. You switch your station when the bell rings, you do the work, you clock in, you clock out. I was tired from the jump, really. I think it was starting to get to me; feeling like my voice doesn’t matter as much at school as it does in my work with IntegrateNYC.

Me and my friends have been joking about building our graduation ceremony in Minecraft, but now it’s looking like that might actually happen. We haven’t gotten word from our school administration on how we plan to proceed.

I was planning to work over the summer to save up, to plan and de-stress and recenter myself. Everything’s kinda up in the air now.

Anonymous high school senior who lives in Brooklyn

I feel like I’m in one of those movies where the world starts coming to an end (not being dramatic). I was living up for this moment. Senior year, saying goodbyes, starting a new lifestyle. But honestly, now everything’s all blurry. I understand that closing schools was the best safety decision, but lots of things are hidden behind the scenes. There are girls that are dependent on school nursing services (e.g. birth control, medical problems, etc.). There are also kids living In toxic households, while their only escape was being at school with friends. The bottom line is I’m one of those unlucky seniors that are faced with this sad reality.

Four years of my high school career and I’ve never been concerned about my grades, I never even failed a class, but now I’m actually concerned that I will. It’s that bad. This was supposed to be my “chill year” but certainly doesn’t feel like it.

Giuseppe Lombardo, senior at the High School of Art & Design who lives in Riverdale

Ever since remote learning was put in place, it feels like my whole senior year came to a halt. I have some classes that are assigning more work than usual, which is a little frustrating because I’m sort of grappling with the world around me as well as trying to figure out this school thing.

I’m lucky because I’m in my senior year, so I’m basically almost done, but I can’t imagine what it’s like for people in their junior or sophomore year, the two years that are vital in the college admissions process. It’s going to be really upsetting if graduation ends up getting canceled. I can’t see how they could just deny us a graduation ceremony. That seems like a little much, you know?

Niyamisa Trail, a senior at Brooklyn Collaborative who lives in Canarsie

I’m kinda overwhelmed, especially because we have certain graduation requirements that still need to be met in order to graduate. My school has PBATS (Performance-Based Assessment Tasks) instead of Regents, and I have a few more to go. I did one via Google Hangouts when the schools first shut down and it was okay.

I got an athletic scholarship with a junior college in Kansas. I can’t really go outside right now, so I’ve just been doing in-house conditioning and strengthening. So that’s heavy on my mind as well. And I can’t really celebrate my graduation the way that I want to.

Leigh Hanau, senior at The Beacon School who lives in Cobble Hill

I’m in Art Honors in my school, and our art show was canceled. I was working on my pieces for so long – they were inspired by animals at the bottom of the ocean that have bioluminescence. But they’re all at school now, and even if I could go on the train and get them, there’s no way I could put them all in my house. Between the art show, and graduation, and prom, I feel like it’s all just kind of been ripped from me. I know it doesn’t matter but it still doesn’t feel great.

It just kinda sucks that on my last day of high school ever, I didn’t know it was going to be my last day of high school. I wish I could’ve known.

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