When people told me my senior year was going to be over in the blink of an eye, I never would have predicted it would end like this.

Thursday, March 12 was a pivotal day for OPRF High School students. We were sent an email from the administration that school had been canceled due to COVID-19 and that we would have to initiate eLearning for an extended period of time. I did not think much of it at the time. In fact, I’m sure we all saw it coming. However, before my mind could predict it, I intuitively knew this would have a lasting effect on all of us.

The same night, my mother and I hovered over my computer awaiting an admissions update from my dream school. To my surprise I was accepted, and like any other second-semester senior, I was ready to just enjoy the rest of my senior year. However, it’s hard looking forward to a future when you’ve been robbed of the present. I was terrified of the idea of not being able to live out my last few months as a high school student. I speak on behalf of the entire senior class when I say this.

Prom, Graduation, and so much more will be compromised due to the virus. Students feel a sense of unfairness, we work so hard just to find out that we can’t enjoy the best part of high school, a final hurrah. I think it is safe to say that we have truly learned the value of appreciating something once it’s gone.

In all honesty, it’s the small things we miss because school is sometimes the only place where we are together. Of course we miss our friends, but also our at-school acquaintances who get us through the day. We want to reach out to them but are too afraid to admit we might not have a class with them again. Believe it or not, we miss our teachers and coaches too. After all, not being able to go to school is one thing, it’s another to be stuck inside all day long.

Our counselors have told us to meditate and stick to a routine in order to maintain our sanity, but our feelings of loss are beyond our comprehension. I haven’t been meditating;

if anything, I’ve had the urge to scream into a pillow every time I read the headlines of the Washington Post. We’ve realized just how hard it is to act gracefully during this time.

Yes, we understand that self-quarantining is for the best and that these are First World problems that we’re talking about here. Nevertheless, we are still entitled to feel these emotions of anger and grief. It’s not the boredom that is hard, it’s the unavoidable feelings of loneliness that creep in through our windows and under our bedroom doors as the days start to blend together. It’s true what scientists say: it feels against human nature to isolate ourselves amidst a crisis. For one, knowing that I’m not alone in missing out on senior year has brought me comfort.

In fact, the Class of 2020 has really united, and I feel more connected to them just by how much we’ve been there for each other. We are committed to making new memories, just maybe not as we expected. Through Zoom and Facetime, we acknowledge the great technology of our time. It has allowed us to start discussing ideas to reschedule important events like prom and more. We’ve realized that our senior year is not taking a traditional route. However, that has fueled us with the potential of making our alternative plans even more special.

What can the students of Oak Park take away from this? Education is a right, but the community that it comes with is a privilege. I hold much more gratitude for my senior class now than I ever did before. Over the past few weeks, we have done our best to remain a community despite our recent setback.

I hold so much more pride in my classmates because we have chosen to get through it together.

Margaret Korinek is a student at Oak Park and River Forest High School.

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