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Redefining Senior Year

By: Emily Sobel

My eighth-grade health class received an assignment to write a letter to our senior year selves. Upon receiving the letter in the mail recently, I read a page full of questions about the exciting, yet expected, unknowns of being a senior: Who would my prom date be? What would graduation be like? What college apparel would I wear to school on college commitment day? We could never have imagined the real questions we would be asking: Will we be allowed to have an “in-person” prom? What color mask will I wear to graduation? and Will I get to wear that college apparel on campus in the fall, or will all classes be online? 

When I sat down to write this article, I tried to think of words to capture the magnitude of the year we are living in, and what I came up with was “ a year of firsts.” On a global scale, the first time the meaning of “pandemic” transitioned from the pages of history to life. The first time there would be no classroom learning. The first time shops and restaurants everywhere are empty. The first time the Olympics, professional sporting events, concerts, parades, and gatherings of all types have been changed, canceled, and adapted with an unknown time of rescheduling. The first time normalcy has a completely new meaning.

As the Senior Class of 2020, we could of course dwell regretfully on all that we missed: the prom, a graduation ceremony, senior trips, and roaming through the halls decked out for spirit week wearing prideful smiles ear to ear. I know that to my eighth-grade self not having these senior milestones in their traditional forms would have been unthinkable. However, four years later, what I do know now is that our class has two choices.  We can go down as the senior class that wasn’t. Or we can choose to redefine ourselves as the senior class who conquered.

If there is one thing a pandemic can’t take from the Class of 2020, it’s that we have the strength and the skills to innovate and adapt. On a daily basis, we connect the physical world to the digital world. We challenge ideas and create new ways to accomplish tasks on the fly. Through social media platforms and video chat, we are finding ways to continue to keep in touch, to have virtual celebrations, to bring ourselves closer together, and to uplift one another. Not only are we exploring the future of where technology can take us, but we are also connecting it to simpler times. My family had our holiday dinner on zoom with extended family all over the east coast. What amazed me was the appreciation I gained both from the greatness of classic family time and the ability of technology to bring us all together. My sister and I now participate in zoom workout classes, and the motivation of hundreds of people coming together during these times to exercise and uplift one another is incredible. We also started a new family tradition: Sunday brunch, a meal we look forward to every week. As a community, we cook more, we learn new recipes, and we play games. It’s times like these where we really appreciate the simple things in life. The guidelines that dictate our graduation and prom celebrations won’t stop the love we have for one another. The bond our class shares is unstoppable. We have a deeper appreciation for our time in school and our education. We went through this together, and we have a newfound mindset of innovation when things don’t go as planned. The powerful way we are reacting to these circumstances is historic. After all, we choose to be the senior class who conquered, and we are one resilient team.    

Personally, throughout this pandemic, I have gained a deeper respect for the importance of journalism. In this time of crisis, we depend on journalists to bring us the breaking news and decipher what is important. Over the past few months, there have been multiple pieces of breaking news each day that usually would’ve been the breaking news of a whole year. In times of uncertainty, there is one thing that remains constant: journalists are there to deliver and share stories. Whether it is from home, an office, or a stadium, journalism never stops, and it puts the pieces formed by world events together for those across the globe. 

I’ve gained amazing insight from being a member of our school’s newspaper, The Thunderbird, over the years. I’ve learned firsthand that the best stories emerge when teamwork is involved. I’ve learned that communication is key, both when collaborating with other members and writing articles. I’ve learned not to be afraid to ask “Why,” to learn about each contributor’s style and preferences, and that when great minds come together, anything is possible. I’ve learned that writing encourages curiosity- it challenges us to think deeper and investigate. Writing articles has encouraged me to explore some of my passions, such as business and technology, while also stepping outside of my comfort zone to learn about subjects I’m not familiar with. The learning that accompanies writing continues to inspire me every day. 

It has been an absolute honor to be the Editor in Chief of such a collaborative and inspiring team.  I am excited to pass the torch to Leah Sycoff and Jesse Boxenhorn, whose dedication and hard work will certainly lead The Thunderbird to another amazing year. I’d like to thank the entire editorial staff for turning this paper and community into an extended family. To our club advisors, Mrs. Dalton and Mrs. Davis, thank you on behalf of our staff for teaching us skills that will last a lifetime. You have both been amazing role models as writers and leaders. Together as a community, The Thunderbird has continued to persevere and serve as a news outlet during these unprecedented times. 

These past four years have been full of great memories and learning experiences, and I am looking forward to my next four years at Cornell University. As one chapter closes, another begins, and when curveballs are thrown my way in the chapters that unfold, I will use the skills I acquired during quarantine of adaptation, flexibility, and creativity. As we step into the unknown together, we must remember that what happens to us doesn’t tell our story, but how we react to it does.