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When the pandemic broke out the Class of 2020 mourned the loss of prom and the chance to walk across the graduation stage. But while they experienced two-thirds of a normal senior year, this year’s class has yet to set foot on campus. Here’s what four Santa Monica High School students say this transformed senior year means to them.

“Senior year — everyone idealizes it as a time of freedom. Everyone sees it as a culmination of the past 13 or 14 years that you’ve been in school. I think that our senior class is especially close. Nobody is mean or bullies each other; we are like a family. It makes this year a little extra hard because we can’t talk to our friends much,” said Mia Wachtel.

Although the class contains around 700 students, many of them have grown up together at Lincoln and John Adams Middle School and were excited to participate in the communal events that typically bring the senior class even closer together.

“Before the pandemic started I was really looking forward to all of the pep rallies. It’s super important for seniors to participate in the rallies — it’s so exciting it feels electric almost. The crowd just goes crazy with how excited you are to celebrate your class. It’s your last chance to enjoy life before you have all the responsibilities of college,” said Brianna Cornejo-Perez.

“I was super excited for senior year because I saw my brother go through it and that’s where he really got to establish not only his friend group but also establish what he wants to do in the future. He had such a fun time between the pep rallies, homecoming, and going to prom. I’m disappointed to miss out on all that,” said Jeremy Platt.

Because of the limited opportunities for socialization, this year’s seniors have become creative with the ways they can see and support each other.

“We have drive-through birthdays where we’ll hang out in our cars and cheer on our friends or we will plan a group Zoom date because I know this is hard for a lot of people’s emotional well-being,” said Cornejo-Perez. “We have quick check-ins to see if friends are still doing well in school and doing well with their mental health. We all worry for each other; even if it’s just a quick FaceTime call we try to make it happen.”

While these students will graduate without experiencing many classic aspects of senior year, they will graduate equipped with a set of life lessons they may not have otherwise acquired.

“I feel like coronavirus has allowed me to reach into different parts of myself. When I had my most recent concussion it introduced me to staying at home and reflecting by myself. It showed me what it’s like to be by yourself and what it’s like to face challenges by yourself, whether that be school or having to deal with my mental state. The pandemic took that to the next stage. It has allowed me to face those challenges head on,” said Guy Goes.

“Being on Zoom has taught me to refine my words more than normal and speak with care. This whole platform has turned me into a better public speaker and a more thoughtful and appreciative person of life outside of the screen,” said Wachtel.

“I’ve learned that when there is a lot of uncertainty you should take control of your life and try to manifest things on your own rather than relying on people. It’s really important to try and seek knowledge on your own rather than let things come to you and try to take advantage of all the different outlets that you do have,” said Platt.

Students in Santa Monica High School’s Class of 2021 are undergoing a senior year unlike anything experienced by the previous 126 graduating classes. While the interviewed students are uncertain what the rest of the school year will hold, they remain optimistic about the future.

“I think that we will go back to school in some format and I really hope that everything goes back to normal soon, because a lot of people are going through more stuff than ever,” said Goes. “I think good things are coming that’s all.”

Clara@smdp.com