The devastating loss of high school experiences


The RHS Varsity Cheer Team practices social distancing and use of masks while cheering under the Friday night lights. Photo courtesy of: Janet Olivares

Holly McDonald, Feature Editor

It’s Friday night. The stands are packed as students stand shoulder to shoulder, cheering on the Rochester Varsity Football team. The band is playing, students are laughing, and the fluorescent stadium lights fill the darkness. It’s freezing outside but students huddle together for warmth; leaving the game is not even an option. 

This was life, pre- COVID. 

Simple high school experiences like this exist no longer during a global pandemic. And the loss of these memories is extremely upsetting for high schoolers.

 As the world shut down and opportunities became limited, the “high school experience” almost seemed to fizzle away. The graduating class of 2020 did not have a prom or a formal graduation ceremony. But it didn’t end there. Even today, after activities have started to resume and events reopen, high school students are missing out on what are supposed to be some of the best years of their lives. 

Senior Emily Beylerian is upset with the current changing circumstances and wishes she could have a normal senior year like every other graduating class.

“COVID has made it challenging to enjoy our senior year,” Beylerian said. “It was supposed to be a year of lasts: Last homecoming, last football games, last early morning drives to school, but instead, we only get the stress of college applications and loads of homework.” 

Junior Sydney Jundt, a level 8 gymnast, struggled being out of the sport for months over quarantine. Michigan gyms did not open until last month, and the general public often forgets that training centers for gymnastics fall under that category. 

Practice was a way to take a break from everything else that I needed to do in my life, and now that I didn’t have that I could definitely tell that I was a bit more stressed than before,” Jundt said. “Because of the fact that we went from practicing about 20 hours a week to nothing, I found myself getting extremely bored after finishing small tasks around the house.”

Being a part of the dance team is very important to junior Maggie He. With current precautions, her team was not able to practice all summer, as they normally would.

We were allowed to start practicing in person about two weeks ago and our first practice was last week,” He said. “This was definitely a delay because we normally would have tryouts in June and gone to camp and practices all over the summer. At this time last year, we would have known both of our competition dances.”

Apart from sports, students are missing out on their social lives. Instead of interactions with classmates, most of their day is spent isolated in a room while completing school online. 

It’s as if we don’t stare at screens enough. According to Commonsense Media, teens averaged over seven hours of screen time daily, and that’s not including school or homework. With the current shift to remote learning, add five hours of screen time for school and students are staring at screens for nearly twelve hours a day. We’re called the technology generation for a reason. 

According to the New York Post, the number of kids who spent over six hours on screens rose from 8.3 percent to 49 percent, which is nearly six times higher than before the virus. Factors such as online school are taken into account, so this increase could be a result that there was no option. However, in the same study, parents noted that kids had an increased desire for more screen time that was not related to school. 

With this increased screen time, more time is spent on social media apps such as TikTok and Instagram. And although the idea is very general, social media is often linked with mental health issues. Social media apps can promote comparison, fear of missing out, and an increased risk for anxiety and depression. Generation Z, the current generation of high school students, already has the highest rate of mental health disorders; with the shutdown and more time for social media, these factors add up to an uneasy situation. 

The isolation factor of the shutdown made it difficult to find an outlet or someone to talk to, as communication over a device can’t compare to a face-to-face conversation. 

2020 graduates and current freshmen in college faced a difficult end to their high school career. After years of hard work and dreaming of specific events, these chances turned into restricted opportunities.

“In the time before the pandemic hit, I had thought that the [graduation] ceremony would be no different from the rest,” RHS alumna Kari Eickholdt said. “The O’rena, blue and white almost everywhere, and the long-awaited celebration… None of it happened the way I thought it was going to, but as people, we have to be understanding, respectful, and adaptable to our community.”

Facing setbacks is something that junior Talia Dixon now understands. Although she’s only a junior, she had big plans in mind to get a headstart on her career. However, she was unable to take action like she thought she could have due to the pandemic. 

“This was going to be the start of beginning my career in the medical field,” Dixon said. “I want to start volunteering in order to start experiencing the medical field, but since COVID, I can’t do that. It would’ve given me a chance to really experience the medical field directly.”

For Jundt, gymnastics has not been the same since her return. After much time off, athletes have lost strength that they’ve built up over years and now practices are heavily focused on gaining this strength back rather than training skills.

 “For the first month of outdoor workouts we pretty much only did conditioning and endurance to make sure the return would be easier,” Jundt said. “I noticed the conditioning that we usually did was way harder than it was for me before the break, even with doing the zoom workouts each week. As we have started transitioning to indoor practices, we are only doing basic skills and still focusing heavily on conditioning to build back up the muscle that we lost.”

The Oxford school district has been in person, full time since the beginning of the year. Patrice Myers, a junior at Oxford High School, was able to share her experience with being in person in the midst of a pandemic. 

“Being back at school isn’t as bad as I expected it to be but it’s still hard trying to have a normal high school experience with all of the restrictions,” Myers said. “We aren’t allowed to use our lockers. We have to wear string backpacks instead of regular backpacks and the hallways are one way. I think Oxford is handling this very well because we’ve made it this far and haven’t gotten shut down yet. I honestly think that any school could do this as long as the students follow the rules.”

Eickholdt is making the most of her college experience despite the restrictions. As she faces the “new normal”, she’s been able to strengthen relationships with those around her as well as adapting to a new school experience.

I’m living in East Lansing with three other girls and I couldn’t be happier,” Eickholdt said. “We take turns buying groceries, cleaning the apartment, and playing Mario Kart an excessive amount. It’s been difficult to ease into a self-sufficient schedule, but we’re making the most out of our situation. We’ve also become close with the neighbors on our floor and it’s basically one whole support system.”