WHS Seniors: Graduating During a Global Crisis

The words “senior year” conjure up hallmark occasions:  senior prom, senior skip day, lording privileges like leaving campus between classes over underclassmen, driving around town like you own it with your “SEN20RS” status marking a window. For the Wilton High School Class of 2020, getting a taste of those delights was almost worse than not having them at all. This class of students, mostly born in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, came into an uncertain world. This milestone–the culmination of their school careers–has also been tainted by a global pause.

With the updated school closure date now extending through at least May 20, the question on everyone’s mind is if they’ll get to walk the halls of their high school again.

Status of Special Events

WHS Principal Dr. Robert O’Donnell told us that in regard to prom, graduation and other events, the current thinking is “very up in the air, and we are closely following [Wilton] Health Director Barry Bogle’s directives.” He emphasized that students and parents alike can stay tuned to the weekly Morning Warrior broadcast for updates, as status can change from day-to-day. In this week’s installment, O’Donnell reiterated the priority of keeping students safe, while balancing the desire to keep the final months of senior year as special as possible under uncomparable circumstances.

As a general rule, O’Donnell said administrators are trying to “hold out to the latest possible date to make a decision on some of these events and make an informed decision at that time,” adding that they will be in contact with “student government about these activities.”

Regarding the lauded Senior Internship program that Wilton students anticipate each year, O’Donnell is working with administrators and Scott Durkee, Senior Internship/Interest Project coordinator to “consider different options” as many of the businesses and organizations students would work with have shuttered their operations due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In true Wilton spirit, the discussion has begun about special interest projects that have real meaning or can be helpful to the community at this time.

GOOD Morning Wilton reached out to a handful of seniors to ask how the COVID-19 epidemic and resulting shutdown is affecting them. Here’s what they said:
(Note: some responses have been edited for brevity.)

Rishabh Raniwala

“The biggest impact this has had on me as a senior has been with the college admissions process. Not being able to visit schools and decide which is right for me has been difficult for sure. In addition, staying at home and not seeing any friends is challenging mentally–I try to spend plenty of time Face Timing when I can!

“A big upside for me during quarantine has been time to relax. Although we still have eLearning, I’ve felt less pressure that generally comes with being a student at WHS because of the slowed pace of [or] lack of extracurricular activities and being able to do schoolwork at my own pace. At the same time, the lack of extracurriculars is painful because a lot of year-end stuff has been canceled or is in jeopardy, like championships and senior events. One other upside is definitely the time I have to connect with my family; we have been playing a lot more board games than we normally would!”

Isabel Gouveia

“Not being able to spend the last couple of months with some of my closest friends has been a challenge, and who knows when our regular activities will be resumed. I am an extremely social person and this has been quite the adjustment for me, especially having to do all of the socializing virtually.

“I will say that my life has remained in routine since self-isolation began. I was fearful that with all of this new time on my hands I would become unproductive, but I have actually been filling my time up with useful and meaningful activities including schoolwork, reading, music, and Netflix binging. I have also really enjoyed the quality time spent with my family and pup at home, especially playing board games and completing puzzles.

“Living through this worldwide pandemic as a high school senior, a period of growth and change… As a student taking AP Environmental Science, I am interested to see how our natural ecosystems respond to this pandemic. Has anyone ever thought that maybe we, as a human population, are the true virus? Hopefully, communities around the world will utilize this experience to conduct positive change and think more wisely about their everyday lifestyles.”

A Healthy Perspective

Maden Herve

“Many of the classmates I’ve talked to feel the same way–it’s disheartening to lose out on the little time we have left with friends, and know that this is how the last bit of our childhood is going to end. But obviously the loss of our senior year isn’t the worst problem in the world right now; people are losing their lives and their family members every day.”

Sophie Sudano

Sophie, an athlete on the lacrosse team, said, “I was on my way to break a record (all-time-scoring record and my own score). I would never have expected it–maybe an injury, but never expected literally not being able to play.” She’s found some upsides to the quarantine, including, “having [my] sisters home, we all get along really well.” She has also kept busy, by painting, working out every day, and playing lacrosse with her dad.

“Everything’s being stolen from me at this moment–it’s a hiccup in time. Everything stopped. I missed out on so much…” [but] “everyone’s healthy and safe.”

Dineth Karunamuni

“Not having the opportunity to attend school and seeing my friends and teachers has definitely been the biggest impact on me. I’ve been told by former Wilton High School graduates that some of the greatest memories they ever had occurred in the second semester of their senior year:  things like college shirt day, to senior skip day, to the senior barbecue, are experiences that my peers and I will never get the opportunity to undergo.

“An upside of the quarantine definitely has been the amount of sleep I’ve been getting. I never thought the day would come where I could say I average around eight hours of sleep on school days. As well, I’ve had a lot of free time. As a result, I’ve been able to begin my transition to college and also learn about the institution and my future peers.

“When reflecting on this period of time, I’ll definitely question, ‘What could’ve been?’ Months of priceless memories were never made due to corona. But I’ll also remember the feeling of living and witnessing a world crisis. Along with that, I won’t forget the countless sacrifices made by health care workers and other workers who risk their lives for the sake of others, and the unification of our country as we all battle against our invisible opponent.”

Lilly Casiraghi

“Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye summed up pretty well how I’m feeling right now as a senior. “I was trying to feel some kind of goodbye. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don’t care if its a sad goodbye or a bad good-bye, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t you feel even worse.” For me, and perhaps for the entire Class of 2020, our senior year feels like a missing good-bye or an unfinished story. We were just about to write the best chapter, when the pens were ripped out of our hands.

“Before school closed, I was working on two exciting theatre productions. I’m in (was in) the spring musical, Hello Dolly. Already, I miss the time spent at rehearsals with my theatre friends. For us seniors, this was our last chance to perform together, so it’s heartbreaking that experience is gone. The other show, 26 Pebbles, is about the Sandy Hook school shooting and how the people of Newtown cane together after the tragedy. We were just about to perform, excited and honored to be sharing such a powerful story with our community. Ironically, the story unfolding before us is just as gripping. Theatre has been a big part of my experience at WHS so right now, I’m sad not to finish what we’ve started.

“Although the show may not go on, our lives will. As part of this amazing Class of 2020, we will do what we have to do, to survive this terrible pandemic, gladly sacrificing, and always supporting each other along the way.

The Warrior Effect

While the Coronavirus will leave its mark on the Class of 2020, there are already signs that this subset of the Wilton population is earning its ascribed status of people who pay it forward. Their “Senior Assassin” game was cut short after social distancing rules made it difficult to keep up, but the players voted to donate the registration fee they each paid–cumulatively more than $600–to charity.

Though premature to congratulate this class on its graduation from Wilton Public Schools, this act of generosity shows that they are more than ready to go into the world and make it a better place.