It was many, many moons ago, but it seems like only yesterday that my Geneva High School teammates and I were slipping on our cleats, grabbing our gloves and heading out to our home field diamond for the last game of our high school baseball careers. I don’t remember if we won or lost, but most likely we got clobbered — we had a really lousy team my senior year.
But winning or losing never really mattered much to me. What I really enjoyed was the thrill of competing and just being on a team with other knuckleheads like me. We created many special memories that final season.
There are so many other fond recollections I have from the last quarter in high school.
At the top of the memory list would be going to prom, picking up my girlfriend and seeing the look in her father’s eyes as we backed out of the drive, the excitement of the big dance in the old high school gym, the post-prom at the bowling alley and going to the Indiana Dunes for day-after-prom.
I remember how hard it was for me to keep my attention that spring in Mrs. Stanford’s English Literature class. My mind was on senior skip day, fishing with my buddies and where the next “party” was being held.
And then there was graduation night — the last hurrah, the final leg of the race, the walk across the stage before family and friends.
Yes, that last quarter of high school will always hold a special place in my heart, as I’m sure it does for most graduates.
Tragically, memories of the last quarter of high school will most likely not be as pleasant for this year’s 2020 high school seniors. A bat in China and the ensuing worldwide spread of the coronavirus has shut down, among other institutions, schools across America, robbing graduates of their own fond end-of-high-school memories.
Wondering how our own Longhorn seniors are coping with this loss, I interviewed three students who, through my photography, I’ve followed the last four years — Julia Sisson, Porter Flake and Hannah Selig. Their stories are different, but they all have the same theme — a deep sadness that their last year in high school is not ending the way they had envisioned.
Julia has been a member of DECA and a member of the Longhorn varsity softball team all four years of high school. She says the school shutdown hit her hard.
“It’s just really sad and very upsetting that I won’t be able to finish my high school softball career. We had a great team this year and had a really good shot at winning a state championship,” Julia said.
Everyday life has drastically changed for Julia. “I no longer see my friends, I lost my job at Macky’s Grill due to the virus and I had almost finished my graduation announcements. Except for the walks I take with my dog, I’m pretty much stuck at home now, doing homework and missing being with my friends.”
With the schools closed, Julia won’t be able to take part in other extracurricular activities this spring. “I was really looking forward to our annual DECA trips and to senior ditch day. This is just a really sad time for me right now.”
Porter Flake, a Longhorn athlete each year in football, basketball and track, says that when spring break was extended a week because of the virus, he handled that pretty well, thinking things would soon return to normal. But when schools were shut for the rest of the school year, that was harder to accept.
“I really miss seeing my friends at school and most I probably won’t ever see again. I was really looking forward to having a great final year in track and going to state in the triple jump, javelin throw and 4x400 meter relay. I’m also going to miss going to prom and graduation on the football field. When I was just 4 years old in 2006, I went to my sister’s graduation and remembering how special that was,” said Porter.
And how does Porter spend his time now that the high school campus has been closed? “My day starts with four hours of homework on the computer, then lunch, chores, and filling out scholarship applications. I feel very blessed to live in such a caring community.”
When senior, Hannah Selig, first got the news that all Payson schools would be closed for the rest of the school year, she said, “It didn’t seem real, then I felt really frustrated, actually more devastated than anything else. My whole world changed.”
A four-year cheerleader and member of STUGO, Hannah was always on the go. “Now I’m just in the house most of the time. Online I have my high school homework and my college cosmetology class to do, but now I’m also painting the garage and I clean a lot.”
Like Julia and Porter, Hannah says she will miss going to prom and walking across the stage on graduation night. But also, she says, “I’m going to miss STUGO’s senior week and just being with my friends at school. And this spring I was thinking of going out for track, but now that’s not going to happen.”
Hannah may well have been speaking for all high school seniors when she said, “You never know what you have until it’s gone.”