Trio of Maple students sat down with The Daily Telegram and talked about COVID-19, senior year, graduation and future
ADRIAN — The things that end up making a high schooler’s senior year of school a special time to remember — and to celebrate — have all but dwindled away from those soon-to-be graduates of the class of 2020.
Prom, senior skip days, sharing senior memories, a silly senior prank, athletic or academic accomplishments to cap off nearly 13 years of schooling and many other feel good moments that make senior year of high school so special, have been taken away by COVID-19.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has lasted and has made its impact felt for nearly two months here in the United States, forced schools to shut down for good. Many places of education have transitioned to an online learning format. All of them though, are hoping to get back into the classroom and into a routine of normalcy, as soon — and as safely — as possible.
Madeline Dempsey, a senior at Adrian High School, said the coronavirus outbreak — and its corresponding rules and restrictions — has become the “new normal” for this year’s graduating class of high school seniors.
“This year did not turn out how any of us would have thought it would,” she said to The Daily Telegram in a recent interview. “On the bright side, we are still graduating. The ceremony will just look a little different.”
That transition of something looking “a little different” has in fact become “the new normal” for many individuals who are adjusting to the virus pandemic. Dempsey said she is adjusting to her “new normal” pretty well.
“To tell the truth, I get a little bored at home,” she said. “I have been trying to find a job, but that’s super hard right now. I work out a lot at home. I have been trying to stay active as much as possible.”
Had it not been for the virus pandemic, and for students to be learning from home, Dempsey might not have been able to perfect her baking skills. She has found herself in the kitchen on several occasions, mastering some cookie recipes. Only a few batches ended up slightly burnt. TikTok, the video-sharing social networking service, has helped Dempsey on several occasions while baking.
Life outside of the school walls and away from the athletic fields is unfortunately that “new normal” for young learners all across the nation. But for the senior class, 2020 was supposed to be their year. Their time to shine. Their moment.
“Everybody we know needs to make some kind of an adjustment,” sad fellow Adrian High School senior Collins Hicks.
For Hicks, the biggest adjustment he has seen from COVID-19, has been the amount of times people wash their hands. Even he finds himself washing his hands a lot more now. Handshaking, or being any distance shorter than six-feet away from someone, seems taboo at this time.
“It really feels like we all forgot to hang out since this all started,” he said. “It will be exciting when we can finally get back together, but I have feeling we will all be a little awkward about it.”
Hunter Comstock, a third Adrian High School senior student, also spoke to The Daily Telegram about how he his adjusting to life away from school. Like Dempsey and Hicks before him, he is not overly emotional about missing out on the rest of his senior year of school.
“I guess I am a mix of emotions,” he said. “Sometimes I get a little sad, but other times I am OK with everything. Some days just feel the same as other days.”
Over the next couple of weeks, The Daily Telegram will be looking to feature the stories of high school seniors from each of the Lenawee County school districts in a weekly feature. This is the first installment in that weekly feature.
Comstock was one of at least 25 to 30 students who was enrolled in the Leadership course at Adrian High School. Hicks was also enrolled in the upperclassman-level course. Leadership was Comstock’s favorite class this year. It was, as he described, a “chill class” where he could unwind during sixth-hour after a long day at school.
Leadership class does exactly what it sounds like it would do. It teaches high school upperclassmen how to be positive leaders and role models both at school and outside of school. Students enrolled in the course are also responsible for the planning and organization of such school events as Homecoming, Winterfest and the annual school picnic.
Comstock was enrolled in several higher-level courses this school year and he was maintaining a solid GPA. Not only was he keeping up on his course work, but he was also dual-enrolling in online college courses. His goal after high school is to attend Grand Valley State University with a focus in finance.
With summer celebrations maybe in jeopardy of not happening at this point in time, Comstock said he didn’t have any major plans in the wings for his life after high school. It was all about preparing for the college education ahead.
“Hopefully those few plans I did have this summer will be able to take place,” he said.
Comstock participated on Adrian High School’s varsity boys cross country team and he was a member of the Maples varsity boys basketball team, which unfortunately was not able to complete its season. The Maples had their eyes set on a possible district championship. A March 13 contest against Columbia Central was on the docket to be played.
Comstock is employed at Hometown Pizza located in the Midway Market, Adrian.
“When we said we wanted to have snow days in the winter so we wouldn’t have to make up days in the summer, this isn’t what we meant at all,” Dempsey said.
If there is one thing she could change about that final day of school for students — Friday, March 13 — Dempsey said it would be taking the whole thing a little more seriously.
“Had we known at the time, that we were not coming back to school at all this year, I am sure the hugs and goodbyes would have meant a lot more,” she said. “To us, it felt like we were all going on an extended spring break. None of us would have expected the entire school year would have been called off.”
Dempsey still keeps in contact with her closest friend Madison Kendall, while maintaining proper social distancing guidelines. She is hopeful that she can spend some of this summer with her family and friends at Round Lake. But she knows that might not be a certainty.
Unlike some high school athletes, Dempsey was able to play through her entire senior year of varsity basketball. She was never able however, to step one foot onto the softball field for her final season of competitive softball. Dempsey was going to be one of Adrian’s main rotation pitchers.
“I put in a lot of work on my pitching game over the winter,” she said. “Even though we didn’t have a great season in basketball, I am forever grateful for being able to finish that season.”
While missing the friends at school and missing the camaraderie of participating on a varsity sporting team, Dempsey also said she misses two of her favorite teachers: Jason Lucius and Jason Skeels. Lucius is a math teacher at Adrian High School and Skeels is a social studies teacher, as well as the varsity softball coach. He assisted Dempsey quite a bit this offseason with her pitching.
Dempsey will be attending Michigan State University in the fall where she will be focusing on business or education. She is not sure where she wants to be career-wise, but elementary education has been on her mind.
“I’m not really an emotional guy. I tend to keep my emotions more on the inside,” Hicks said.
Like many people, when the coronavirus began to take shape in the United States and locally, Hicks didn’t understand the severity of the situation. He thought the virus issue would remain for a couple of weeks and then pass. Now of course, he has realized that is not the case at all.
“At first, I think a lot of us thought the virus was a joke. It’s definitely not a joke,” he said.
Hicks misses his friends at school, but he also misses the memories he was going to make this year. Like Dempsey, Hicks was never able to step foot on the baseball diamond this spring. He would have played centerfield, been in the rotation and he would have been one of three seniors on the Maples varsity baseball squad.
“For me I was just looking forward to the season of ball,” he said. “I don’t think anybody really had any major expectations for us as a team. I just wanted to get out there and play in the game, have some fun at practice and celebrate my last year of baseball with my fellow seniors and with my teammates.”
An academic honor roll student, Hicks was a little bummed out that a planned spring break trip to Florida was put on hold, but he is hoping by summertime, the trip can still go on.
One of his biggest adjustments during the virus pandemic, has been sharing the house each day with his mom and his sister. Both of them have relocated to working from home. Rather than feeling like home, Hicks said sometimes home feels like an office space more than anything.
“There is an added stress at home right now,” he said. “Nothing easy has come from this virus.”
Perhaps the biggest change in Hicks life due to the worldwide pandemic, has been the cancellation of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. Once the NCAA announced the tournament would not be played Hicks realized the severity of the virus’ impact.
“I still remember that day when they announced the cancellation,” he said. “If you are cancelling one of the biggest and best sporting events of the year then there has to be something about this virus. For me, that’s when things started to change pretty fast.”
Seeing as how Dempsey will be a student at Michigan State University in the fall, her pick to win the entire collegiate basketball tournament was a no-brainer.
“MSU was going to win it all,” she said. “Cassius Winston was going to take the green-and-white all the way this year. No doubt.”
Hicks will be enrolling in two years of classes at Washtenaw Community College beginning this fall. He will study general courses and will decide upon furthering his education after his two years at WCC.
Whenever the coronavirus pandemic will come to an end, and what exactly the world will look like when it does come to an end, are quite hard to imagine. Uncertainty is one of the biggest issues surrounding the virus. For those students like that of Comstock, Dempsey and Hicks a world without the threat of the coronavirus might not look the same as the world before the virus.
“It will be interesting to see if we will always be this strict or concerned about germs,” Hicks said. “I remember how scared everybody seemed when the virus started. People were rushing to the stores. I just didn’t understand it.”
Will donning a face mask in public become one of the new norms of this pandemic? What about shaking hands, or even hugging?
“I can’t remember the last time I shook somebody’s hands,” added Hicks. “People are trying their best to stay away from each other.
“A lot of changes have taken place in my eyes,” Comstock added. “For me, these changes are all about keeping things as clean as possible. Maybe that’s something we always should have been doing.”
As far as graduation goes — as Dempsey said — students will still graduate, but the process in which diplomas are received will be extremely different than normal. There might not be a formal graduation ceremony as accustomed to. Caps and gowns might not be required. And perhaps some of the graduation rights will be completed in a virtual format. Right now, Dempsey does not have the answer to how these things will be conducted, but she does know that in a couple of years she will look back on this time in history and feel sad about all that she missed out on.
“If we end up having some kind of a class reunion in a couple of years, I think it will be a sad, but good ceremony. It will just be sad because all of us will still know how much we missed out on,” she said. “As a class, we were so close just a couple of months ago. Now, it seems like we are all so far apart.”