The Class of 2020 will always remember their senior year as “different.” This group of students missed many senior memorable moments, such as prom, senior awards assembly and baccalaureate, not to mention the graduation ceremony itself, which hopefully will be held in July.

Senior spring athletes missed their last season of competition, as well as being honored on senior night. Dancers missed their last recitals and choral members missed their last concert and musical.

Beginning in March, going to school meant turning on the computer and learning at home. I’m sure for many seniors, as “senioritis” set in, that became harder and harder.

All through the county, homes are proudly sporting signs congratulating our seniors for all their hard work. And here at the newspaper, our annual graduation section has taken on a new look.

Instead of just listing the bios of the honor graduates, each local senior had the opportunity to fill out a form and have their information listed. All the seniors’ pictures are included also, not just group photos of the honor graduates, scholarship recipients and marshals.

This year’s seniors had the opportunity to list their favorite memory from high school. Many of the Wilkes Early College High School (WECHS) students listed a school trip to New York City as their favorite memory. Friendships they had made during high school was another theme for Wilkes seniors.

During the last several years, the Wilkes County Board of Education changed their policy on allowing WECHS students to play sports with the school from their home district. Several WECHS students listed playing sports and being part of a team as being “most memorable.”

I thought WECHS “super senior” Vanessa Chaquea summed up her high school experience very well, “My best memories of high school come from my senior year. I had many great experiences, learned many lessons, made new best friends and had so much fun enjoying my last year as a kid. I really wish it wasn’t cut short, but now I know to appreciate every little moment of happiness.”

Chaquea graduated summa cum laude with her associate in arts degree as well as her high school diploma, and will attend NCSU to study civil engineering.

East Wilkes High School senior Ava Tharpe said attending East Wilkes the last four years was, “an experience I will treasure forever. I know now that I am leaving there with a family that I can always lean on and memories that are unforgettable.”

Tharpe will attend Lenoir-Rhyne University as an LR Scholar and will play golf and study sports management.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to appreciate more deeply our “little moments of happiness,” I think. Things we might ordinarily take for granted, such as attending school and church, have become more precious.

College days

How COVID-19 will impact these seniors’ entry into college this fall has yet to be determined. Fears about the virus’ resurgence has already caused colleges to shorten their semesters and re-adjust plans.

This year, most colleges’ semesters will begin in August and go straight through to Thanksgiving, omitting fall break. Students are scheduled to be out from Thanksgiving through the middle of January.

At many campuses, freshman orientation will be held virtually this summer, rather than on campus.

Freshman students, who are usually packed together into college dormitories, will need to emphasize hygiene and cleanliness. Social distancing is very difficult in dormitory life. COVID-19 is easily spread in close quarters.

Although the class of 2020’s senior year was cut short, the year was still memorable. As EWHS senior Taylor Norman said, “High school is another day to challenge yourself, meet new friends, meet your goals, and have the best time of your life!”

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