Prom? Canceled. Graduation? Canceled. High Schoolers Share Their Worlds With Us

Left to right: Taila Lee, Qadir Scott, Genevieve Schweitzer, Julisa Gomez Reyes. (Beth LaBerge/KQED )

Spring has an expectant air to it. The weather is getting warmer, the flowers are in bloom, everything is still green. I savor this time as an adult, but as a student, spring meant so much more. It meant the end of the school year was approaching, and for seniors, it meant the start of a whole new phase of life.

The coronavirus has made it a weird spring for everyone, but young people may be feeling it more strongly. Bay Area schools won’t be holding in-person classes for the rest of the school year, which means lots of seniors are finishing out their high school careers online. They aren’t going to prom, signing yearbooks, sharing the news of college acceptances with friends and teachers in person, or even walking across the graduation stage in front of their family and friends.

I asked four students at schools around the Bay Area to record regular audio updates about how they’ve been feeling and what they’ve been doing over the past eight weeks. This week’s Bay Curious episode is dedicated to their voices.

Taila Lee

High school senior Taila Lee holds her prom dress at her home in San Carlos on April 4, 2020.
High school senior Taila Lee holds her prom dress at her home in San Carlos on April 4, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“I’m Taila Lee. I’m a senior at Woodside High School. I’m still taking a lot of time to adjust to online learning. This is only day 3 and I already feel a little bit behind. I think I’m really missing the structure of the school day. I’m also really missing face-to-face instruction and that social interaction with teachers and classmates.”

"It’s Tuesday, March 31 and just about two hours ago I found out I’m not going back to school. We’re continuing online learning for the rest of the year, until June. And that means March 13 was the last day of my senior year. And I’m really sad. I’m not going to be able to go prom. I’m not going to sign yearbooks with my friends. I’m not going to hug people goodbye at graduation, take photos. My first semester of college might even be online, which is really crazy to think about.”

Qadir Scott

Qadir Scott, a senior at Oakland Tech, in Alameda on April 6, 2020.
Qadir Scott, a senior at Oakland Tech, in Alameda on April 6, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“This is Qadir Scott. I’m a senior at Oakland Tech. A big thing with me, I listen to this band called Bad Brains. Something they talk about is keeping that PMA. That’s positive mind and attitude. PMA. Control everything that you can control, you know. Everything else will kind of play out, but if you keep that positive attitude and mindset, you can achieve anything. That’s how I see it. That’s exactly how I’m thinking about it right now. Make the best out of it. The way I see it is like, class of 2020, the corona class, COVID-19. We’re part of a bigger moment in history."

“I’m going to Morehouse [College] in the fall. I’m excited about that. But we’re going to do online school, I’m pretty sure, for the first month or two. I don’t really know how to feel about that. It kinda sucks because you kinda want to just jump right into your college experience. But it might make it easier, who knows. I’m kinda just playing it by ear, again trying to keep a positive mind attitude.”

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Genevieve Schweitzer

Genevieve Schweitzer, a junior in high school, plays the flute in her backyard on April 6, 2020.
Genevieve Schweitzer, a junior in high school, plays the flute in her backyard on April 6, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“My name is Genevieve Schweitzer. I’m a junior at El Cerrito High School and I’m doing fine. I just miss my friends and doing normal things. It’s day 8. I’m sitting on my bed, basically in the position I’ve been in all day. I’m just thinking about all the things that have been canceled. Like concerts and trips to Disneyland with my band that we were planning, and prom. I already have my prom dress and it’s just hanging in my closet looking sad. But there’s definitely worse things going on right now so I don’t feel like I can complain too much."

“I just got back from the school. They opened it for one afternoon so we could come get our stuff from our lockers and check out textbooks and things like that. There was a security guard sitting out front with hand sanitizer and wipes and you had to tell them where you were going and why. I didn’t expect it to feel so sad to see the school so empty and to be back. I already had my last day as a junior in high school. And when I come back, I’m going to be a senior.”

Julisa Gomez Reyes

Julisa Gomez Reyes, a high school junior, at her home in San Jose on April 6.
Julisa Gomez Reyes, a high school junior, at her home in San Jose on April 6, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“My name is Julisa Reyes Gomez. I'm a junior at Independence High School in San Jose. I miss school. I miss my friends. I miss my teachers. I miss the classroom. And this is something that I never thought I would be saying."

“My sleep schedule is really bad right now. The nights are where I’m awake and during the day I’m asleep. And I’m trying to fix that, especially with my family, we’re all doing it. My mom’s out of a job and we just don’t want to do anything because, I don’t know, we can’t go out and we’re usually a quiet family so it’s very difficult to get anything done.”

Read and listen to more student perspectives as part of KQED’s Youth Takeover 2020.