The impact of COVID-19 is being felt in every facet of human life and in virtually every nation in the world. In addition to the health and economic impacts on many, there is the unquantifiable impact of botched traditions, lost memories and stolen dreams. Such is the plight of high school and college seniors who are experiencing an anti-climatic end to their high school and college education. To these seniors, graduation is a bust as it is devoid of all the pageantry and trappings that tradition bestows. NPM interviewed dozens of these seniors to elicit their perspectives on the unfortunate circumstance.
Michael Eze is a high school senior and captain of the South Shore Charter Public School (SSCPS) varsity soccer team, the Jaguars. Even though the soccer season ended before the study-from-home started, there were so many senior activities that Michael was looking forward to. There was the senior dance, the prom and the dinners. There is also the senior fundraiser and mentorship activities, all traditions which seniors bequeath those coming behind them. In Michael’s own words, “we are missing out on traditions and memories and it hurts. Aside from the school traditions, I was really looking forward to the Nigerian community cookout. We have a big backyard and it would have been great to see my Nigerian community gather for my graduation cookout.”
Michael, who will be attending the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in the Fall, understands that this is not anyone’s fault and is relying on his faith and family to deal with the situation. “No one is to blame for this. I am sure that if our parents can change the situation for us, they would”, he says.
Chinazo Odunze is another gifted athlete who feels like nature robbed her of her senior year festivities. The Stoughton High senior, who led her school’s soccer and track teams as captain, was not overly concerned when school closed abruptly. But she was devastated when she learned that she would not be returning to school or socialize with friends as the quarantine period was extended. “It wasn’t just the school closure that bugged me; it was the fact that I can’t even go somewhere with my friends. Senior year was supposed to be eventful and momentous, but now that is not happening”, the star athlete says.
Stoughton High is working on modalities to do a drive-by diploma ceremony but the plan is still in its infancy. Chinazo has committed to the University of Hartford track for the Fall of 2020 and hopes that her college graduation experience will be different.
Jacqueline Abraham is graduating from St. John’s University, New York in May 2020. In an interview with Nigerian Parents Magazine, Jacquie who is President of the African Students Association, one of the top cultural organizations on campus, feels disappointed about how the senior year played out. “I had been to St. John’s graduation in the past and it was huge and colorful. I saw people graduating cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude and so on, and I wanted that. That was the whole point of getting my grades up, so I can experience that. But it is not to be”, she said with great regret. “I wanted to receive that honor, stop on stage, give people the opportunity to take pictures of me”, Jacquie added with a touch of humor.
Jacquie goes on to talk about how this was a big loss not only for those graduating but for the families as well. “These graduations are great memories and a thing of honor for families,” she added. Jacquie also regrets not being able to properly transition her organization to the next leadership.
Jennifer Abraham, Jacquie’s twin sister, also attended St. John’s University and is in the same situation as her sister. “Aside from all that Jacquie said, the point of the last few weeks of the senior year was to have some fun. It’s spring time, the weather is supposed to be nice, we were supposed to just have some fun before it is all over. That was all cut short”, she said.
According to Jenni, “we all missed out on the last moments of friendship before everyone goes their separate ways. I am going to California for grad school this summer. People have gone to different places. We did not know the last moment on campus was really going to be the last moment. So, we missed a big opportunity to say our goodbyes.” Jenni goes on to say that one good thing they did was having an opportunity to have fellowship. “Someone just started singing a song and before you knew it, we were all worshiping and fellowshiping. “Glad we could do that before leaving campus”, Jenni says.
Chineme Onwubueke graduates from Northeastern University in Boston. Says the freshly minted biochemist: “My graduation was scheduled to be held at TD Garden in Boston with the rest of the Class of 2020. Due to COVID-19, the event was cancelled and I did not receive my cap and gown. Moreover, I was supposed to have a graduation celebration which was also cancelled.”
Chineme is grateful for what her friends and family have done to mark her graduation, in spite of all that is happening. “I’m grateful that I was even able to graduate. My family decided to mark my graduation by dressing up and taking pictures. Moreover, my parents surprised me with gifts and a graduation cake. Family members and friends have celebrated from afar! As such, I am so thankful for the way we seek to mark things and celebrate that which is worth celebrating even in such a difficult period. I am grateful to God for what has been done to observe my graduation!”
Ifeoma Linda Onyenwe is the secretary of her class at Lowell High School and shared similar experiences as her peers. “We were going to make unforgettable memories for our senior year. We might not have a physical graduation ceremony because of COVID-19 and that hurts because we put so much time and effort into our studies over the past four years to have it ruined by corona. Graduation is supposed to celebrate our academic journey and all the accomplishments we had along the way. It hurts that the class of 2020 is not experiencing the things that other classes did. In the Nigerian tradition, graduates always have graduation cookouts to celebrate. Not having one this year is unimaginable.”
Asked how she is handling the impact, Ifeoma says: “I am handling the impact well. I am trying to see the good in things. At the end of the day, everything happens for a reason, and I know one day our senior year will be celebrated, even if it is later in the future. I am handling this like anyone in the Class of 2020 would. I am taking things a day at a time.”
Victory Abraham attended the prestigious Boston College High and was every bit as disappointed as everyone else that he does not get to have a graduation ceremony. According to Victory, “COVID has taken away the final few months of my high school experience. Everyone knows the first two semesters of Senior year aren’t easy. The third semester is usually the one where you enjoy the final months of your schooling experience. This year, we were deprived of that because of COVID.”
But even as he expresses regret, Victory falls back on his faith to cope. “As a man of faith, you cannot solely focus on the negatives, but understand that all things happen for a reason. It’s not our time but God’s time, and greater memories are to come. Spending time with family and reflecting on how far we have come has definitely been a benefit of this quarantine experience and I am grateful for that.” Victory, whose elder brother Daniel plays football for Harvard University, attends Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy New York in the Fall and will be part of the school’s football program.
Denzel Ekes is another senior whose experience is not different from the rest but is keeping hope alive regarding. “Currently there is no solid idea as to whether graduation will even be held”, he says. Regardless, Denzel, who is Harvard bound this summer to study Mechanical Engineering and Astronomy, is looking to the future and refuses to dwell on the current situation. According to him, “while it’s extremely disappointing that I’m not able to celebrate four years of hard work, I’m still persevering and trying to ensure that my grades remain high. I’ve connected with various other students of the college that I plan to attend and I’m preparing for the next chapter of my life.”
David E. David is a high school senior at South Shore Charter Public School (SSCPS). Like most seniors, David was looking forward to the fanfare of graduation – the get together, the cookout, senior dance, and prom. David says that his graduation has been pushed back to July or even December. In David’s own words, “trying to remain positive and embrace God”.
David who will be attending the University of Hartford in Connecticut understands that God knows why all these happened at this time. He is looking forward to the future with hope and optimism.
Sydney Emuakhagbon is another motivated student who feels like he is not going to get the graduation he deserves. Sydney is a high school senior at Flower Mound High School (FMHS) in Lewisville Texas. Sydney says he is upset but at the same time, he is grateful that the Lewisville school department is doing more than other districts to ensure a graduation ceremony that is safe. In Sydney’s own words, “my school district is definitely doing more than other districts, so, I am grateful”. NPM gathered that the school has organized a drive-through graduation at the Texas Motor Speedway. The ceremony will be limited to family members of graduates, and social distancing protocols will be observed.
Sydney who will be attending the prestigious William and Mary is optimistic about the future.
Ifeanyichukwu Agbo is a high school senior at Perkiomen Valley High School in Pennsylvania (PVHS). Like most graduating seniors, Ifeanyi is disappointed that this year’s graduation will be a drive-through rather than the normal gathering ceremony. Although Ifeanyi is disappointed with the way things turned out, he is optimistic about what the future holds. When asked about how he is dealing with the impact of COVID 19, Ifeanyi replied in one word “fairly”.
Ifeanyi will be attending Pennsylvania State University in the Fall.
Briana Chiamaka “Adaeze” Nwachukwu is a high school senior at the Mystic Valley Regional Charter (MVRCS) School in Malden, Massachusetts. Briana is the high school dance captain and girls track and field athlete. She was looking forward to celebrating her graduation with family and friends but the COVID-19 pandemic changed all her graduation plans. She is thankful to God for keeping her family, friends, and well-wishers safe and healthy through this difficult time. In Briana’s own words: “I encourage all the graduating students to stay strong because we have God who will continue to protect us”. She is looking forward to a future of many more graduations.
Briana says that although every aspect of our life has been affected by COVID-19, it motivated her to do her best in achieving higher honors. The thing Briana will miss most is how the Nigerian community celebrates graduation parties with cookouts, music, and dance. She strongly believes that this is the beginning of success stories for her and many 2020 graduates. Briana will attend Dartmouth College in the Fall.
Abieyuwa Olaye is another gifted student who is graduating from Taunton High School (THS). Like other seniors Abieyuwa was expecting the fanfare that comes with years of hard work and graduation. He is disappointed that his graduation will be virtual. Abieyuwa is, however, optimistic about the future, understanding that there will be many more graduations to come. He knows that the decision to have a virtual graduation was made to ensure the safety of family and friends, and to keep him safe. In a letter to NPM, Abieyuwa wrote: “All I can do now is to take it one day at a time”. Abieyuwa knows that the future is bright, and he cannot wait to see what it holds. He will attend University of Rhode Island (URI) in the Fall.
Nnaemeka Denis Agwu is a high school senior who is graduating from Katy High School (KHS), Texas. Nnaemeka is not happy that COVID-19 has put a damper on what would have otherwise been a good graduation party. He is also disappointed that he will not have the opportunity to party with family and friends during graduation. However, Nnaemeka believes that everything happens for a reason. In his own words: “it is messed up, but everything happens for a reason”. Nnaemeka says he has accepted the situation and understands that it is not the end of the world. He looks forward to attending Blinn University, Texas in the Fall.
C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S CLASS OF 2020 !!!
Space constraints preclude us from publishing all the responses that seniors sent us. But what is clear is that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the seniors is devastating. This scourge has vitiated family and community traditions, crushed and stolen momentous opportunities. As we salute the frontline workers who are in the fight against the pandemic, and as we commiserate with those who have lost loved ones to the scourge, let us not lose sight of a group who will remember the pandemic for the rest of their lives because it robbed them of invaluable memories. If you have a family member who is a senior, please give him or her a hug.
Would you please join the Nigerian Parents Magazine in saluting this brave group of seniors. Congratulations class of 2020!!!