Editorial: Class of 2021 currently being ignored, deserves recognition

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The banner created for the Class of 2020 still hangs outside the tennis courts, seven months after they have graduated. (Jan. 22, 2021) Photo by: Alya Mehrtash

Written by Beverly Media Group Editorial Board

The first day of senior year might be the only first day of school people are excited to go to. It’s the beginning of the end. It’s your last first day. That sounds a little frivolous, but it’s true. Senior year is full of bittersweet “lasts.” Your last football game. Your last athletic Senior Night. Your last Stress Less Week. Your last formal, and maybe even your first, too. All of those moments compile themselves into your last hurrah as a kid. 

We lost that.  

It’s gone. We can never get that back.

The Class of 2021 has endured this pandemic for the entire tail end of our high school career, arguably the best part of the entire four years. We have lost so much, only to be met with empty promises, almost zero effort, and an utter lack of recognition. As an Editorial Board, we feel that the Class of 2021 hasn’t received any of the recognition we have earned.

We acknowledge that discussions and meetings happen behind closed doors and students aren’t clued in to every decision made. We also know it’s tough to plan things virtually. Trust us. We know how exhausting Zoom can be. We know it’s hard to be innovative and come up with any source of motivation right now. We see that the district, administration and ASB are working hard to deal with the cards we’ve all been dealt, and aside from this issue we are currently raising, they have been doing a good job. We understand that our current circumstances are not ideal and that things get in the way. We understand. 

However, it feels as if the seniors were pushed to the side and forced to accept “cross that bridge when we get there” mentality. We’re not asking to reopen the school and let us do things that are unsafe simply because we’re missing these milestones. We are not asking to be the number one priority. We are just asking to be seen. It was around July when we learned the district would be virtual for the first semester. Seven months have gone by, without a single school-sponsored event for the seniors, or even a significant nod from administration. 

Unlike the Class of 2020, the seniors this year lost the excitement of gift-giving at Albion Street, the emotional relief of our final Stress Less Week, the thrill of celebrating our last Winter Formal, and many more staples of our Norman traditions. We feel cheated and rejected by the loss of memories we have been expecting to make for the last four years and the lack of effort from the school in creating some sort of event to cope for the absence of our traditions. Now, with 18 weeks left in our last year of high school and in the midst of a pandemic, we feel even more disappointed and anguished by the administration and ASB’s lack of recognition for our dedication to the Norman community.

Some members of the senior class have been committed to this district for over a decade and have witnessed family members carry out the traditions that we were supposed to make for ourselves this year: prom, Junior/Senior night, Senior Breakfast at Career Day, Grad Night and silly senior IDs, just to name a few. All of these events fulfill seniors with a sense of camaraderie as we spend our last year together. We are not just frustrated about losing memories that were to be made. We lose our Norman spirit as each day progresses because we are not together, and ASB and the administration have not shown recent efforts to specifically uplift the eldest class. With these lack of events, we feel as though we’re not living our senior year but rather another junior year.

With these lack of events, we feel as though we’re not living our senior year but rather another junior year.

As there has been such a defeating lack of response to acknowledge the class of 2021, the Editorial Board feels this one subject requires an entire article of its own. That’s how important this is to us. Now, we aren’t asking for round-the-clock attention or fanfare every time we turn on our laptops. Just an acknowledgement. 

As an entire class, we slaved over our laptops, digital notes, and Zoom meetings as the world passed us by. All we want is for our administrators and peers not to pass us by. 

It’s important to note that we’re not aware of everything going on behind the scenes; we understand the district, administration and ASB may be working on projects for the Class of 2021 that we are simply unaware of. However, no school-sponsored events have occurred specifically for the seniors yet, leaving us to carry the burden of miscommunication and ill-timed announcements. In this vacuum created by administration and ASB, students stepped up. One student organized a socially distant senior sunrise through Instagram, while another created and sold her own Class of 2021 beanies. While this ingenuity and innovation is wonderful to see, it shouldn’t have to happen. Our leaders need to step up. 

Over the course of this year, we have seen countless school events go virtual, like Back to School Night, Open House and Club Day. Even the Theater Department’s plays are virtual. It’s possible to convert certain normal events into virtual ones. It’s even feasible to create new ones—like ASB’s Milk and Cookies night—especially in this time of innovation in education. Why hasn’t that happened for senior events? It’s not due to a lack of resources, because we have seen it be done before. 

Some of us have been loyal members of this district since we were 5-years-old. It feels like a betrayal. The place where most of us put more than a decade of our work, sweat and love turns around and forgets we are there. 

In fact, it seems as though the district has forgotten that the Class of 2020 graduated seven months ago, because banners still hang outside our school, proudly stating in big, bold letters, “WE LOVE OUR SENIORS CLASS OF 2020.” Last time we checked, they are college freshmen. We, the Class of 2021, are your seniors. Driving past this banner is a reminder, every time, that we continue to be ignored and forgotten. And frankly, it’s quite disheartening. 

Now this is in no way a zero sum game. We acknowledge that the Class of 2020 went through a significant loss as well. Not only did they also lose key milestones like their prom and graduation, but they were blindsided by the sudden end to their physical high school education, while we were able to, to some extent, mentally prepare. 

However, you must understand that as seniors who, as of right now, have lost their entire senior year—every event, every moment in the halls with our friends, every speaker in the Cherney—it’s hard to watch all of the attention still go to a group who only lost their last three months.

Watching the world come together to rally behind the Class of 2020 was a very heartwarming thing to watch as juniors. They absolutely deserved every ounce of attention they received, considering everything they had endured and lost. It also made some now-seniors look forward to their final year, and to the love and support we would feel, despite the difficult circumstances. We’ve been met with none of that. It feels as though not even a grain of the recognition for the Class of 2020, which was on a global scale, has been given to us. It feels like we’ve been left in the dust. 

We understand that the pandemic has caused significant distractions as we each try to maneuver through these unpredictable times together. We recognize that the PTSA has developed “special” graduation events for the Class of 2021, such as: Graduation Day Breakfast, Class of 2021 yard signs, Class of 2021 school banners, Sunset Senior Montage, Graduation Swag Box and senior decorations all for the price of $199 per student. 

Additionally, we appreciate ASB’s efforts in creating senior apparel. However, unlike the Class of 2020, the senior class this year was not given the opportunity to choose the design of our apparel, despite student designs being submitted in the beginning of the year. And yet again, we feel cheated and neglected because we were denied a rare opportunity that could have brought us together.

We are annoyed that the PTSA and ASB are just now starting the release of new information and items designated for the senior class. Since July of 2020, both parties knew that the first semester, at least, of the 2020-2021 school year would be remote, yet they did not provide the senior class with any form of comfort or solace. Just silence. 

The Editorial Board knows the Class of 2021 feels ignored. We, members of that very same class, feel the negligence in our hearts. We know it was not anyone’s intention to forget about us. We understand how hard it has been for the district, administration and ASB to convert to a fully virtual academic year, and we commend them for all the work they have done for the entire student body thus far. But we really feel like you forgot about us. We are not going to sit here and say what you could have done in the first semester. That time is up. You lost your chance. 

Now is the time to make it up to us. Organize events for the seniors. Keep us in the loop instead of making decisions without our input. Redeem yourselves in our eyes. Make us feel seen, heard and, most of all, understood. Frankly, after everything that has happened to us, we deserve it.

We want to be remembered. We don’t want to be eternalized as the Class of 2021: the forgotten.

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