By Claudia Gohn
Senior year traditions—from proms and sports banquets to senior nights and graduation ceremonies—have long been a way to commemorate the end of high school, giving students the chance to celebrate and say goodbye to one chapter of life before beginning a new one. But with schools closed since March and social-distancing regulations still in place, Charlottesville-area teens have had to finish their high school careers with makeshift versions of the events they had looked forward to for years.
Although many seniors are disappointed, some have found these celebratory moments special. Covenant School senior Madi Alley remembers when she was in ninth grade, watching the seniors in a capella perform their traditional spring concert. Now she’s a member of the a capella group herself, but this year’s concert looked much different. It took place at a family friend’s barn, with only four people in the audience, and the singers stood six feet apart, wearing masks. Still, Alley is grateful to her teacher for organizing a concert at all. “It felt like we were being seen and still cared for,” she says.
At Saint Anne’s-Belfield, it’s a tradition for seniors to break the dress code one day in the spring and paint their school uniform skirts with the logos of the colleges they will attend in the fall. Senior Miguel Rivera Young, who’s going to Brown University, says he and some friends found a modified way to take part in the tradition (which isn’t limited to girls): They spread tarps across a street, and painted the skirts while physically distancing from each other. Then they took photos, standing six feet apart.
But there was no substitute for some once-in-a-lifetime events, like prom. For Monticello High senior Catherine Taylor, prom was one of the main things she was looking forward to, and she had begun making plans for the night. “We all already had our dresses because it was so close.”
Having these memorable events within arm’s reach, only to be snatched away, has devastated many seniors. “At first it was really, really heartbreaking,” says Albemarle High senior Cora Schiavone. “I was just
really upset because there was so much I was looking forward to.”
Swimmers Charlie Cross, a senior at AHS, and Noah Hargrove, from Western, are mourning the cancellation of their summer league, where they would have had senior night and a last chance to swim on the teams they grew up competing with. While Hargrove’s year-round swim team coach put together a virtual form of senior night, “it wasn’t even close” to the real thing, he says.
Like everything this spring, many long-anticipated events weren’t typical of senior year, but they were better than nothing. “I would rather have the big graduation with everybody,” says Ally Schoolcraft, a senior at CHS, which held a “victory lap” and photo op for graduates last week. “But for the time being, I think they did good with the resources that they had.”