As the school year wanes and a long-awaited summer approaches, the graduating seniors of Oakton and James Madison prepare for much more.
Well over a year has passed since Virginia and the rest of the nation took isolating action against the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, for these graduating seniors the pandemic was likely just a backdrop for the memories they’ll hold in their hearts when, for the first time since 2019, they will be able to graduate with their classmates in person.
“Our Senior year hasn’t been what we expected,” said Madison SGA President and graduating senior Braden Holt, “but I think we’ve made the most of it.”
“We were ready to put on a graduation with 1,000 people attending.” Holt continued, “We had a plan for everything.”
Fortunately, the official plans for both Madison and Oakton’s graduations include well over 1,000 total attendees and a certain well-known concert venue.
“Every student, that I’ve talked to at least, has expressed so much gratitude that we’re having one,” said Holt, “and we’re having it at Jiffy Lube, like, that’s where all my friends go to concerts to see their favorite artists – now we’re gonna be walking on that stage?!”.
Even with such an exciting solution, the impacts and challenges of and leading up to this grand event are hardly lost on students, staff, and parents alike.
“Basically, we went from a school: a vibrant community with tons of spirit walking through our halls,” said Madison Principal Greg Hood, “A school isn’t a building, a school is a community of teachers and students all coming together at the same time, and in a single day – almost overnight – that was just kind of taken away.”
“We’ve personally been fortunate to not be out of a job and not be out of a place to live,” said Madison PTSA president Christopher Lande, “but this very social, formative time of their life has not had […], it’s that lack of social interaction, which for the teenagers I think is a bigger deal than for the parents.” Constant and diligent work was needed from all involved in the planning. More often than not, the challenge for the day was having to deal with the recent changes and looming uncertainties when it came to health precautions.
“Any graduation takes a significant amount of time to plan,” said Oakton Principal Jamie Lane, “but just, the unknown of what the conditions will be the month, the week, the day of graduation […] that just makes the planning of it…interesting!”
Despite all the changes and challenges, the mindset of those charged with “making the best of it” has focused on two words.“Perseverance, you just gotta always persevere” said Braden Holt, “I know that’s kinda general, but if this pandemic has taught anybody anything it’s just that you gotta work with what you got.”
“I think we’re all just living in constant hope,” said Principal Hood.
Perseverance and hope against the inexorably unknown: the students, staff, and parents that make up the community surrounding this year’s graduating seniors have a lot to be proud of.