Editor’s note: The Como class of 2023 experienced the challenges of most high schools with the added difficulty of pushing through the Covid pandemic and virtual classes. In the following essays, Como graduates Caitlyn Coyle, Sig Isaacson, and Jesiah Mason share their reflections on their high school experience:
For me, the thought of graduation is bittersweet. The last four years have been difficult at times but also very rewarding.
When I think about my time in high school, the pandemic obviously comes to mind. Trying to navigate the abrupt end to my freshman year and distance learning in 10th grade was a struggle. Every day felt monotonous, with all the different Google Meets and assignments blending together.
I also felt very lonely and isolated. I have always been someone who prefers meeting people in person to talking on the phone, so when that was taken away, I felt very disconnected. I felt as if there was a cloud of anxiety, loneliness and boredom hanging over me all the time.
Through this, it was hard to find the motivation to do my schoolwork. Powering through that year and all that came with it was the biggest obstacle in my high school career. I had to find ways to motivate myself through my classes and find alternative ways to make social connections. That period of high school took a lot of perseverance and creativity on everyone’s part.
When we returned to in-person school, I was determined to make the most of the time I had left. I joined the Ultimate Frisbee team, worked hard on the soccer team, and went to and participated in a lot of school events.
With the return of normal activities, I felt my motivation for school come back as well. School became something I had fun at and enjoyed going to again. The activities I experienced and the connections I made during my senior year made it the best year of school I’ve had.
Reflecting on the past four years, I recognize the struggles that the pandemic put me through. But I also recognize all the incredible things I got to do and how grateful I was to be able to do them.
With graduation and college in the fall, I am excited for what the future holds. But I am also sad that this current chapter has to end.
Caitlyn Coyle will be attending the University of Iowa.
Almost 13 years ago, I rolled my monogrammed backpack through the main doors of St. Anthony Park Elementary and into the kindergarten room for the first time.
This was the first of many “firsts” to come, and it marked the start of 13 years of assignments, of picking at the school lunch, of sitting next to people who would become my best friends or next to people who I’d never talk with again.
From there, the “firsts” kept on rolling: first tooth lost in school, first time being sent to the principal, first homework, first research assignment (on blue whales).
I didn’t really realize it at the time, but somewhere between all these “firsts,” some “lasts” started slipping in: last time being walked to school by my parents, last clay sculpture in art class, last recess.
Some “lasts” I was sad to let go, like my last talent show telling jokes with my best friend. Some I was glad to be rid of, like our last time standing at school concerts and singing for the crowd. Some were probably for the best (middle school dances).
The beginning of high school sports was a big ‘“first”’ for me; the memories and friendships I’ve made on the swim and cross-country teams are important to me and will hopefully last the rest of my life.
At the same time though, the time commitment meant the end of going to friends’ houses for hours and hours every day after school. Getting a driver’s license allowed me to experience a whole new kind of freedom and independence, but it also meant the end of biking all around the neighborhood with friends.
Now with just a couple of days left of senior year, all my “firsts” have passed, as well as almost all of my “lasts”; my last races have been run (and swum), and I’ve already clicked ‘submit’ on my final high school assignment.
Thirteen years later, I’m finally ready to walk across the stage at graduation and experience my last ‘“last”’ of school.
Sig Isaacson will be attending the University of Wisconsin.
As I entered my freshman year of high school, I was full of anticipation and anxiety of the unknown, yet I was determined to make friends and have fun.
I was enrolled in the Academy of Finance curriculum and as a JROTC cadet. I bonded with my peers as we began to navigate the triumphs and tribulations of our high school experience, or so we thought.
I was distracted by the news of a teachers strike, so the insidious diffusion of the COVID-19 virus didn’t grasp my attention until it entered the U.S.
The trepidation of the pandemic intensified my anticipation of my high school experience as I attempted to prepare for the impact of the pandemic on my physical and mental health. Due to my inclination to academically succeed, I was highly motivated in my classes and maintained that momentum as we shifted from in-person to online learning.
What I struggled with the most with online learning was the overwhelming sense of boredom about my education. Since I’m a hands-on learner, staring at a screen was not my best learning setting.
My social skills plummeted too. Socializing with students was challenging and I’m grateful for making friends pre-Covid; otherwise the pandemic would have devastated my mental health. The isolation impacted my ability to socialize with others, so when we finally transitioned back to in-person learning, I felt kind of like a freshman again.
However, I remembered my feelings of boredom during the pandemic and sought to socialize and have an exciting rest of my high school experience.
Within JROTC I participated in extracurricular activities such as Academic Bowl and drill teams. I even achieved the chance to compete twice in the national Academic Bowl competition in Washington, D.C.
Ironically, I also got to travel to D.C. during senior year with my AP Government class in order to learn and see our democracy in action instead of competing.
Additionally, I learned a lot about leadership and compassion through JROTC, and rose to the rank of major and became the commanding officer of the program.
Although my high school experience wasn’t what I anticipated it would be, I can confidently say that the adaptability and optimism I gained will be helpful for the next chapter of my life.
Jesiah Mason will be attending Augsburg University.