Are we really seniors?

Class of 2023 may still feel like freshmen following COVID-19


Maddie Cascione

Rally picture from Sep. 24 from the junior section

Take a serious look at the last four years. None of them have come without challenges; COVID-19 and wildfires brought about tribulations no one saw coming, followed by a year and a half of online school. Crisis after crisis prevented several classes of high school students from receiving any semblance of a ‘normal’ high school experience. 

Consider, then, that the last traditional time the Class of 2023 had was the first semester of freshman year. Even after we came back from distance learning, right in time for our junior year, the shadow of COVID still loomed heavily in the form of masking policies, frequent testing and social distancing. 

It is safe to say that many seniors in this graduating class still feel like freshmen. That year was cut short, followed by online school, and then a year of sporadic masking and panicking over our friends’ positive tests. We can’t help but feel like something is missing in terms of that overall high school experience. 

The Class of 2023 never got  the full experience of its freshman and sophomore years. The first full year of classes was a wake-up call like no other. Junior year is arguably the most crucial year of high school, as a result of looming pressures from colleges about doing well. That year would have been the hardest regardless of any other circumstances. With the combination of that lost time and the hardest year of high school, junior year felt like the ultimate logjam. 

Growing up, many kids looked up to ‘High School Musical’ or any Disney Channel original movie that was based on high school. We thought our experience in high school would mimic the realities we saw in these movies. This fantasy was tossed aside when we spent that crucial year of high school growth inside our own homes, unable to connect with one another. In the twisted reality within the 2020-2021 year, we remained at home, witnessing our rally days through Google Meet calls. 

The Class of 2023 was shaken by the reality that we would only get to go back to school in person in time for junior year. With the added pressure of COVID-19, nothing was normal; our desks were spaced apart, with glass protectors between students, creating new barriers that interfered with the regularity of the routines we used to have. This transition could not compare to the first semester we had at Oak Park High School. 

Now, as we are embarking on only our second full year on campus, OPHS seniors seem to have mixed feelings. 

“It feels like we’re freshmen going into senior year,” senior Stephanie Calderon Arredondo said. “It’s like we almost got thrown back into junior year after being online or hybrid. Both years seemed to go by so quickly and it feels as if we didn’t get to develop our social skills.”

There is a shared sentimentality among many seniors that draws them back to their freshman year. There was an excitement that was wrapped around being the new kids on campus. Now, we can’t seem to fathom that time is slowly ticking away, making us cherish every moment we have left. 

“Since our freshman and sophomore years were online, coming back in person felt like we should still be freshman,” senior Karina Brewer said. “But since we had to adapt to being juniors it felt like we were in a whole new territory. Time has just seemed to move very fast.”

Time, as well as the reversal of time, seems to be the recurring theme in the minds of seniors. It is a widely expressed wish that we could turn back the clock and go back to when we weren’t worried about college applications and graduation rituals. Despite how recent it feels, the Class of 2023 is way past our freshman year. Thus, our only option is to make the best of the time we have remaining, and enjoy our senior year while we still can.