Column: Juniors, it’s time to step up

Amy Yu, Editor-in-Chief

Juniors proudly wave their Class of 2021 flag during Spirit Week 2019. We had our first taste of leadership this Spirit Week, but when the seniors graduate they’ll leave a hole in our community. We may be laying low during these shelter-in-place weeks, but like Spirit Week 2018 when we beat the Class of 2020, let’s take initiative, step up, and lead. Photo: Hallie Faust

Growing up, many of us watched “High School Musical,” which offered us our first perceptions of what high school would be like — sporting events, plays, and prom. Surely as we grew up, our expectations changed, but I don’t think any of us expected the COVID-19 pandemic would be part of our high school experience. 

As the number of cases in the United States rises, it’s evident that change is coming in our personal lives, academic careers and local — as well as global — communities. In the coming months, some of us might get sick, some of us might move away, and some of us might even lose friends and family members. Everything feels uncertain and every day brings on new and often frightening challenges. 

For some in the Class of 2021, this spring would have offered our first varsity sports game or the first lead role in the school play, our first chance to go to prom. We’re missing out on high school milestones that we have been working toward since freshman year. 

As a junior, we may never hear the chimes of the Tibetan singing bowls in our English classes again or sit through one of history teacher David Rapaport’s lectures that include anecdotes about his good friend Willie Mays and his seven-month sabbatical to the Netherlands.

Many events and important dates were canceled. Some of us had college tours planned during spring break. Many of our test dates for the ACT and SAT were canceled. 

Some of us will have to take our first tests in the summer and coming fall. Some of us won’t be able to attend our summer college programs across the country or abroad. Some of us won’t be able to work at Teaspoon, Philz Coffee or Rick’s Ice Cream. Some of us won’t be able to work on the docks at Shoreline or teach our campers how to build a campfire. 

It’s valid to be angry that our junior year was cut short and we’re missing out. It’s normal to feel a growing sense of anxiety surrounding testing and other defining steps in the college admissions process.

But let’s get some perspective on all of this. Our college admissions process seems more difficult due to social distancing and the shelter-in-place orders, but when we look back on our lives, will we remember the canceled test dates, or will we remember how we grew and prepared ourselves to become leaders in our community? Will we remember that we did our part by staying home and preventing the spread of the virus, even if that meant delaying our events and tests? 

Yes, it’s inconvenient that our seemingly most important year was interrupted, but there is a silver lining to this: In the midst of the hardest year in our high school careers, we can take a step back from the stress of school and can focus on ourselves, families, and our community. Instead of being overwhelmed by the anxiety from the news cycle, we can channel our negative emotions into new hobbies and productive actions: Try taking up photography, cleaning your home environment or creating music. Did you know that Sir Isaac Newton created calculus during his break due to the Black Death? 

When we come out of our homes and try to return to our normal routines, the seniors — our peers, our editors, our captains, our leaders — will be off thinking about their next adventure, and they’ll leave a gaping hole in our communities. We will be coming back to a campus that might be broken from the experiences that we’re going through right now, and we will have to step up to be the leaders and role models. Class of 2021, we’ll have to rebuild our community, and I’ll admit it’s a large responsibility that we’re going to need to take on.

But at the end of next year, when we are rewarded with prom, baccalaureate, and graduation, we’ll appreciate these activities so much more because we’ll understand as few before us have that these things are not givens — anything can happen, as our current senior brothers and sisters are discovering this spring so brutally.

Class of 2021, I know that all the cancellations suck and we’re all going a little stir-crazy from being cooped up inside, but this is the time to reach out digitally, find strength in our communities, and get ready for the challenges to come. As the cast of “High School Musical” said, “We’re all in this together.”