High school seniors across the state waited in anticipation for the announcement from Superintendent Christina Kishimoto on whether or not traditional graduation ceremonies would take place — the answer, a resounding cancellation. In schools across the world seniors have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken away moments and memories that cannot be replaced.
“Two words that describe how I feel about my situation and future, holding on. It seems like everyday is getting harder and harder staying inside away from friends and family,” said Mililani High School Senior Sonny Landingin. “But I am just trying to hold onto the next day and hope for the best.”
For many seniors, they were initially overwhelmed with disappointment, but have come to accept the fact that there won’t be a traditional ceremony.
“In my head I’m thinking, “There will be an alternative at least, and we’re just gonna have to make the most out of it,’” said Landingin. “Honestly, I don’t think I would change anything, I feel like all of this is happening for a reason and we’re just gonna have to get through it together, even if it cost us one of the most important moments of our lives.”
Graduation is only one of the many events that have been cancelled by the DOE, spring sports have also been officially cancelled for the rest of the year. For many senior athletes like Mililani High School Senior Hope Ishizaka, missing out on the last season has been heartbreaking.
“As a senior, this was going to be my last season. I was really looking forward to seeing what I could do, beating old times and competing with my team one last time,” said Ishizaka.
Other milestones like the end of the year assembly, prom and a senior’s last day of school have been abandoned, leaving seniors feeling cheated of their senior year.
“We had many ideas for our last lip sync performance, but all of that has been stripped away sadly. Even though we do have a virtual lip sync, it won’t be the same,” said Landingin. At Mililani High School, every grade level puts on a performance lip syncing and dancing to a mix of songs at the end of the year assembly.
Ishizaka added, “I was looking forward to prom, having my last day of school, track season and being able to experience a graduate. Although this sucks, I know that there’s nothing that can be done. However, I’m trying to stay positive throughout everything that is going on.”
Even the experience of not going to school and in person classes are leaving many seniors feeling disappointed that the third quarter was their last one.
“Quarter three honestly didn’t feel like a good quarter when it ended, such as when I was done with all exams I didn’t feel happy or relieved, I felt contempt with what I did in that quarter,” said Landingin.
Distance learning has been difficult for many students as they are confused on what to do. In Hawaiʻi enrichment work is not graded, but can help students improve their final grade.
“For me personally, distance learning has some challenges and it is much different than being at school. I have a lot of down time and free time for myself and some days I don’t know what to do,” said Ishizaka.
COVID-19 has not only impacted seniors’ last year of school, but also many of their futures — most have already received their college acceptances and even paid deposits to secure their spot. Some seniors are facing tough decisions on whether they can afford to go to school on the mainland.
“I think the biggest factor that plays into deciding colleges right now is finance. With many people filing for unemployment, including my dad, it’s hard for parents to support their child for college. I wouldn’t say my plans have changed, they are just on hold right now,” said Landigin.
Others still plan to follow through with going to a university on the mainland and plan to adjust if online learning will continue through the fall semester.
“By March I heard back from all of my schools and I am proud to say that I’ve been accepted to my top two schools. Between these two schools, I do know where I want to go, and despite our current situation, my plans have remained the same,” said Mililani High School Senior Sasha Arreola.
However, some students are worried about the uncertainty of their first semester of college being online.
“It might change the way I make friends once in-person classes begin or my first interactions with professors from the school. Overall, I understand why classes would be online in the fall semester, but the idea of it happening isn’t very appealing,” said Mililani High School Senior Jacob Nakasone.
Although the class of 2020 will never get the traditional senior year they all hoped for, they are still grateful for the memories that they had and the numerous ones to come.
“I absolutely wish to have everything I was looking forward to like prom, pep rallies, and graduation, but I don’t think that will happen any time soon,” said Landingan. “Though, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, ‘Even if we don’t have these events, there will be something much greater to come,’ that’s the hope I’m holding onto.”