Seniors react to events and activities being cancelled as their high school career comes to an end.

COVID-19 has forced Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and the Commissioner of Education to close schools through the end of the year.

With schools closing in March and students learning they’re not returning, many events and celebrations have been cancelled or postponed. Some of the events students in Waseca and Janesville have missed out on are pivotal moments of high school.

“When I heard that I would not be going back to school, I was in shock,” Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton senior Amanda Guis said. “It didn’t really hit me actually. It was as if the news went in one ear and out the other and I kept telling myself that it wasn’t true. I kept rethinking of the memories that I did get at JWP and how I wish I could make so many more in the last two months.”

School closing for the year is something that teachers and students were not expecting when distance learning started.

“I was truly in shock and heartbroken,” JWP senior Zoie Burton said. “I wanted those final senior moments and the goodbyes to my teachers and classmates. It is so hard to accept we will need to miss out on those things, but it is getting easier with time.”

Some of the memories and activities that have been missed out on are prom, variety show, swing show, spring sports, field trips, spending time with friends at school socializing and many other activities.

At Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton and at the Waseca Junior Senior High School students have missed out on these activities.

“I am very bummed that we cannot have prom, spring sports and even just spending the last parts of school with our teachers, friends and classmates,” Gruis said. “I was looking forward to my last softball season so badly. Our team worked day in and day out to be the best we could be this final year, and we had huge dreams to go far in playoffs. It is very devastating to not even get that chance, but I am thankful for all of the memories that I have made in my past proms and sports seasons.”

When students were moved to distance learning spring sports were not officially cancelled giving the seniors some hope to get on the field one last time. Once it was announced that students would finish the year at home sports were cancelled as well, disappointing a lot of students.

“It is really hard,” Burton said. “I’m involved in softball and before all of this hit our schools, our trip got canceled to Florida. We were going to Florida to play at the ESPN Sports Center Complex. As soon as I heard that, I was just hoping we could have a chance to play as a team here. I miss my team and coaches so much, but we have been able to stay in touch and that has made it a little easier. For Prom, because we could not have one at our school, we did a “Virtual Prom” so I was still able to take pictures with a few friends. This was great that we could still have some sort of Prom experience.”

Both Waseca and JWP would have held prom at the end of April and beginning of May. This is a night for the upperclassmen to get dressed up and dance the night away. Instead the schools had to postpone or cancel the event due to COVID-19 keeping the schools closed and students home.

Prom might have been officially cancelled but that didn’t stop all students from having a day to remember.

In Waseca and at JWP a few students still spent prom day getting ready and putting on their dresses and outfits to take pictures to remember the event.

“This year, my boyfriend and I had our own little prom,” JWP senior Madisyn Loken said. “We both got dressed up, went to see family, took pictures, had a fancy supper and ended the night playing a game of wiffle ball in my yard. We thought it would be fun to get out of the house and take some unorthodox prom pictures to remember this crazy time. Since we couldn’t have a normal prom, we tried to make it our own and have some fun with it.”

With some students celebrating on the original weekends of their prom some are planning their own for this summer.

“Missing out on a regular end of my senior year was/is very upsetting because those are the events that we look forward to throughout high school, but me and my friends might have some type of “prom” sometime this summer,” Waseca senior Ava Storjohann said.

Outside of the activities that seniors are missing out on they are spending their last few weeks of school away from friends and teachers.

“I am spending my final weeks with my close friends and trying to maintain as normal of a spring as possible,” Waseca senior Ben Priebe said. “The nice weather makes things nice to be outside and forget about everything for a while.”

Students have been distance learning since March 30 and have been working through the difficulties that come with at-home learning. Part of being in high school is spending that time socializing with friends and classmates while being able to speak with a teacher in-person when needed about school work.

“I am trying to be as positive as possible and make the most out of the situation,” Gruis said. “I am spending more time with family, being outside, and enjoying the little things that life brings without taking anything for granted. It is very exciting to be reaching the end of high school because it is a huge milestone, even though it is in a fashion that we were not expecting.”

High school for seniors is coming to an end with graduation ceremonies being altered to allow students to still have an experience that they will remember.

“I think the way we are having graduation is very different,” Storjohann said. “Along with the rest of my senior class, I wish we could have had a regular ceremony, but since we can’t, I think this is a pretty good way to graduate.”

Walking across the stage getting their diploma is supposed to be the last big milestone of high school before going on with their adult life. Students will still graduate and receive their diploma through virtual ceremonies at JWP and Waseca.

“I am spending my final weeks finishing out my classes and trying to plan things for graduation,” Burton said. “This has me looking forward to college and things going back to normal.”

Reach Reporter Bailey Grubish at 507-837-5451 or follow her on Twitter @wcnbailey. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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