Olympic Heights staff reflects on the Class of 2020

Olympic Heights staff reflects on the Class of 2020

Over the past two months, the whole world has experienced unprecedented lifestyle changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing social distancing measures. One such facet of life that has drastically been altered is school. From kindergarten to college, students of all ages have struggled to adjust to remote learning. 

But perhaps no group of students feels the loss of the school year more than graduating seniors. At Olympic Heights, just some of the special senior activities that the Class of 2020 has unfortunately had to forgo are prom, the Grad Bash trip, yearbook signing, and an actual live n-person graduation ceremony. 

In light of this unexpected end to their final year of high school, it is understandable that many seniors may feel disappointed and as if they are lacking closure. Luckily, the teachers and administration at OH are completely understanding of these feelings and are doing everything within their power to lift seniors’ spirits. Just last Thursday, OH principal Ms. Kelly Mills Burke sent out a “virtual Senior Awards Night” video which was posted to The Torch website. Now, the OH staff has come together to share some special messages for the OH Class of 2020. 

Emphasizing that the senior class was “born during 9/11 and are graduating during a world-wide pandemic,” Burke mentions that seniors have demonstrated that they are “the epitome of true perseverance, determination, and strength.”

Olympic Heights Advanced Placement Academy (OAPA) coordinator Ms. Kelly Lawrence says she will “remember the Class of 2020 as a group of individuals who are always willing to lend a helping hand and who never hesitate to fight for the underdog. They are a courageous group adamant about standing up for their beliefs.”

The seniors will certainly be sorely missed by their teachers, as many have formed close bonds and witnessed their students’ development over the years. English teacher Ms. Christina Mulford states, “The Class of 2020 was the first group of students I ever taught at Eagles Landing Middle School. Many of them I hadn’t seen since they were little 7th graders, so when I arrived at OH, I was SHOCKED at how much they grew up…They have grown into remarkable adults, and I am proud to have taught them.”

Echoing a similar sentiment, SGA adviser Ms. Kristen Bombonato says the graduating class “holds a special place” in her heart because it is the first class she has “seen through from beginning to end” since she “started with SGA in 2016, with little freshmen babies.”

Social studies teachers Ms. Amanda Aiello and Ms. Chelsea Baer both feel a particular attachment to the Class of 2020 as well. Aiello says she will always remember them for being her first AP Human Geography class, and Baer remarks that she “learned so much from them” as her first AP World History class. Aiello has enjoyed watching all of her senior students’ achievements at OH and states that although “there have been quite a few trying times” during their high school years, they have “amazed” her with their “ability to adapt to all the changes while keeping such a positive outlook.” Baer proclaims, “You all are smart, kind, and tenacious, and that will allow you to do great things. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish!”

Social studies teacher Mr. Carlos Pargas adds, “I am proud of my Seniors. This Covid-19 lockdown is a historical catastrophe that has deprived them of social relationships, family members, and traditions they have been looking forward to for four years. My Seniors have shown a stiff upper lip and now look optimistically forward to a brighter future”

Along with fond memories of the OH Class of 2020, several teachers offer advice to the senior class. Spanish teacher Ms. Jennifer Chacon expresses her regret that she will not be able to watch her students walk on graduation day. But, she urges students to be optimistic: “Please don’t be sad; think about the story you will get to tell your grandkids when they ask you why you didn’t have a regular graduation!” Chacon also shares a message of gratitude, “Thank you for giving more value to my career, and thank you for making me dream that a better future society is possible.”

Additionally, English and TV production teacher Mr. Christopher McKnight thanks his “excellent 2020 LNN Staff.” Providing some advice on how to learn from our challenges and failures, he declares, “Let this be a lesson of how to manage stress and changes, for your future holds many of those moments. It is the successes and silver linings in life that make it all worth it. Keep your head up high seniors, for you came through this flaming hoop in style and with class and don’t YOU have the memory to share when you get older.” 

Reflecting on the day she first met her students in Chinese 1, Chinese teacher Ms. Yinjie Qian recognizes that her students have accomplished so much over the years, “not only in academics, but also in character, community involvement, and leadership.” Although we have “lost some beautiful things” this year, she advises, “Do not let the adversities break you. Embrace them! Adversities will make you stronger, more resilient, and more responsible! Continue to have dreams and soar with them!”

Retiring senior English teacher Ms. Kristy Verzaal advises, “Graduating seniors, you now realize that things happen that can turn your world upside down.  You have two options, to lament the changes, or change with the times.  Show the world what the Class of 2020 is made of. Go forward and always “think outside the box”. 

Assistant principal Mr. Frank D’Annunzio tells seniors, “Hopefully you can recognize that your life will be filled with amazing milestones and accomplishments and high school graduation was only one of them. Make goals, work hard, persevere and you will be afforded plenty of opportunities to celebrate your various successes. Best wishes on a bright future. Make OH proud! “

With these thoughtful and uplifting messages in mind, hopefully the Class of 2020 will be able to move on to the next chapter of their lives knowing that all of OH is standing behind them, sending virtual hugs and cheering them on. The celebrations will continue as seniors still have their virtual graduation ceremony on June 5 to look forward to.

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