EHS Seniors Coping with the Loss of Critical End-of-Year Activities

Melisa Demaku had already purchased and been fitted for her prom dress, a dress that may not be used now.

Chloe Lewis had waited for years to become president of the STEM Club and compete in the nationals. That dream had come true for her, until it was canceled last week.

Ahmed Alananzeh – the likely valedictorian in a class that may not graduate traditionally – has committed to going to a college that he never got to visit in person, only with a virtual tour.

All of the traditional senior year activities came to a grinding, and unexpected end, for the Class of 2020 last month when school closed on March 12 and – as of now – won’t open until at least May 4 and possibly longer. Now all the things they had waited so long to do – such as prom, STEM competitions, spring sports, college campus visits, and maybe even the traditional June graduation – are not going to happen.

“We as seniors are obviously concerned first of all about the health of everyone over our senior activities, but it also stinks to not be able to do all of the things we have waited so long to do,” said Demaku in a Zoom interview on Monday. “We’re been looking forward to prom and graduation for 13 years and it was really just all taken away suddenly. There’s no one to blame and that hurts even more than if there was someone that was at fault…It was so quick. I know someone who still has a cup of coffee left in their locker. Part of me feels it would have been nice to have that Friday (March 13) to get our stuff and say our good-byes. That would have felt better, but again we are in the middle of a pandemic.”

Said Senior Chloe Lewis, “I worked so hard to get my grades up and get in good standing for so long. Fourth quarter is the quarter when a senior can finally unwind and relax. To have it end so suddenly is really hard. I’m getting used to it. The hardest thing though is it ended so fast that I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to have a normal end.”

Alananzeh said he has tried to stay focused for his courses online over the last three weeks, but he said that has been hard in trying to balance the stresses that exist at home too. He shared that his mother had her hours cut at her job, and so he has had to pick up more hours at his part-time job in Cambridge to help the family. That, he said, is scary as he is out and working in the public more often – possibly exposed to the sickness.

Beyond the current scare, he said there is anxiety over his future plans too at college – having committed to a very good school, but never getting to visit it as tours were canceled.

“I really wanted to go check out my school to make sure,” he said. “There was an event in April, but it was canceled. I committed to this school and I never even checked it out in person. The only thing I can do is take a virtual tour. What if I get there next fall and really don’t like it? What if the virtual tour isn’t exactly what it’s really like? The virus put the whole world on pause and we can’t do anything about that.”

Teacher Anna Seiders teaches all the above students in her STEM pathway at Everett High. They would have been only the second cohort of students to graduate from the new program after four full years of STEM. The group of impressive seniors, she said, had been just about to finish their projects when school closed. The program relies on a cumulative project for seniors called a Capstone project. Most of the seniors, Seiders said, had just finished engineering those projects and were ready to build them when the closure happened. It is unlikely, she said, that they will ever get to finish them as intended.

“It is really like pause button on the world, but for these seniors it’s even harder because time keeps going on and the calendar keeps changing and the things they were going to do come and go without happening,” she said. “It’s almost like grieving, maybe denial.”

For Demaku, she said many of the students are still in denial. It’s hard to accept, she said, that things aren’t going to happen.

“I think a lot of students are in denial now,” she said. “People put together a petition and got signatures to say we should still have graduation and prom they days that they are scheduled. That’s just not a thing that a petition can solve. I think a lot of us are in denial, and I know I am.”

Added Lewis, “I feel like I kind of know now that we won’t get anything we hoped for. I like to prepare for the worst so that if it does happen, it’s a surprise.”

In the STEM class, Demaku was making a portable, light-weight wheelchair ramp for Brandon Conde – the former Everett High student (now and adult) who was paralyzed in a tragic accident at home last summer. The ramp would have been engineered to be light, portable and sturdy so that he could carry it with him to get out of vehicles or over curbs. Without any aluminum at home or tools from the high school shop, she doesn’t believe the project will be completed.

Alananzeh was building a generator, and had just gotten his prototype to work. He was in the process of getting ready to build the full project.

Now, it sits on the windowsill of the STEM classroom at Everett High.

He said he might even be able to see it, but cannot do anything about it.

“I can’t even get the generator because it’s at school and I won’t be able to finish it in high school because there isn’t time,” he said. “I wanted to put it on as an accomplishment on my college resume, but you can’t put an unfinished project on a resume. If I want to finish it, it will have to be on my own.”

There is also the groundbreaking overnight trip to Washington, D.C., that was going to take place for the first time ever in the History Club. It’s been canceled.

And the STEM Club was headed to the nationals in Florida, and likely would have taken one of the top prizes for the first time ever in the history of Everett High. It, too, has been canceled.

Supt. Priya Tahiliani and Mayor Carlo DeMaria have spoken quite a bit and frankly about the seniors. DeMaria said his “heart went out to the Class of 2020” last Friday.

Tahiliani said they hope to do everything they can to make the senior year special, even if it means bringing everyone back in the summer.

Demaku said she wouldn’t mind that, but if things were to happen after college starts, she probably wouldn’t be interested.

“As long as it doesn’t go into my freshman year of college, I wouldn’t mind doing something like that,” she said. “I just want a proper good-bye. I already paid for my prom dress. I do want to use it. However, the second college starts, Everett High and this year will be behind me. It would be time to move on.”

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