Como’s Class of 2021 struggles with strange senior year

By Eric Erickson

Distance learning during the COVID pandemic has been challenging for students across the country at every grade level. Stories of low engagement and increasing failure rates have been widely reported in the news.

But for motivated college-­bound seniors who are balancing rigorous Advanced Placement coursework from home while also navigating the college application process, there is a special sense of being in limbo.

Como’s Class of 2021 has conducted its senior year entirely online, without the benefit of meeting teachers, counselors or interacting with classmates. Finding motivation and manufacturing academic energy is tough.

Como senior Aidan Reynolds is a top student and talented tennis player. The Cougars captain lost a chance to play last spring, but hopes he’ll have a senior season. Meanwhile, he’s trying to stay positive through distance learning.

“Staring at a screen each day has become monotonous and makes it difficult to stay on track,” Reynolds said. “It’s made me appreciate being ‘in person’ for learning so much more.

“I never expected my senior year to be like this. Though it’s a small price to pay for safety, it’s disappointing not to participate in decades-old school traditions and pep rallies,” he continued. “I appreciate the efforts made by the staff and student body to recover that sense of tradition virtually. But I think most of us are just concentrating on staying afloat.”

Como senior Paola Guerrero Abrego carries a weighted GPA over 4.0 and is an aspiring artist. She shares the loss of personal connection caused by the pandemic.

“What I planned and expected got thrown out the window the moment we got closed off from school in March,” Abrego said. “There’s a lot of things that seniors were expecting to do this year. However, with the pandemic, we won’t be able to experience a ‘normal’ senior year.

“My focus has been split between school and college,” she noted. “The college application experience is already hard, especially for those like me who are first-generation, new to the process. Most of us now have had to do everything alone, unsure of what we’re doing and where to find help. While my counselor has been a huge help, there has been a lot that still confused me.”

Como senior Hashi Abdulle has maintained his status on the “A” Honor Roll throughout distance learning, and has even found a silver lining. With fewer classes and more asynchronous learning, he’s had to manage time differently.

“I’ve already had the chance to experience what it will be like to be a college student, to be responsible for your time,” Abdulle said. “I’m glad that I managed to tackle college applications and the FAFSA early on which has saved me from some anxiety.”

Finishing college applications can feel good. Being confident about choosing the “right” school can be another stressor, especially when it’s sight unseen. The Class of 2021’s college visits have also been virtual. Hopefully, one day their classes won’t be.

Eric Erickson is a social studies teacher at Como Park Senior High School.

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