Sandy seniors talk missed milestones, plans for the future
At 8:20 p.m. Friday, April 10, — or 20:20 in military time — the Oregon Trail School District lit up the football stadium to honor the seniors who abruptly lost the remainder of their final year when schools were closed because of the COVID-19 crisis. The district will do so every Friday until June 5.
This act is part of a national movement to show solidarity with the students of the Class of 2020, who have endured an unprecedented final year of their grade school careers.
Seniors, as directed by the Oregon Department of Education, received notice within the last few weeks of whether they were passing their classes when in-person instruction ended abruptly on March 13. Those who were — with the exceptions of those taking college-level classes — are now finished with high school and therefore missing out on all the "lasts" that the final three months of school typically bring.
Jordynn Allinger missed out on her senior softball season.
Payton "PJ" Jenkins missed out on the prom he spent so much time organizing.
Taylor McMahon missed out on hosting her final Doernbecher Pageant.
Amanda Bishop, like her many classmates, was "looking forward to walking across the stage at graduation in front of her family and friends."
Cassidy Browning recognized early on that she and her classmates will miss "basically everything everyone told me to look forward to about finishing high school.
"My graduation day now will be when I graduate from college," Browning said.
While at Sandy High, Browning was a champion in the radio commentary division of Speech and Debate this past year. She said she was disappointed when she learned she wouldn't be attending the state competition one last time.
The length of the closure also surprised her. "I thought it would be two weeks maybe. It was quite a shocker."
As one of many students who were passing, pre-closure, Browning is done with all but one class, which is a college-level English class.
In the fall, Browning plans to attend Oregon State University to study marine biology.
"To be honest, I think I'm going to miss how easy it was (in high school) to be around my friends a lot," Browning said. "This was quite an abrupt end. Hopefully we'll be the only class to go through this."
Allinger is similarly melancholy about lost time with friends.
"I don't like not having any closure," Allinger said. "That and knowing I might never see those people again."
Allinger has been playing softball since she was 5 years old and said she's always looked forward to walking onto the field for that final game where all of the seniors are recognized.
"I'll miss just those things you look forward to when you first step foot into elementary school," Allinger said. "I grew up watching my sister play softball and saw her get her senior night. Even if I just got to celebrate with my family, or a small thing where the community could be there — it's not the same, but it would give the same effect (as graduation). I don't think there's anything that could really replace that though."
Allinger is one of the Class of 2020's eight valedictorians with a 4.0 grade-point average before the closure. After high school, Allinger said she plans to attend ministry school in California for a year. After that she said she's interested in serving in ministry part-time and plans to find another passion to fill the rest of her time later. Like her high school experience, however, she believes her future career will be very people-centric.
"I love people," Allinger explained. "I don't have a set job I want to do but something where I'm working with and helping people. I'm thankful for every single one (of the people I went to school with) even if we never talked. They helped shape who I am. They had a big part in my life. This (experience) will help us grow a lot in life and there are better things ahead of us."
McMahon, while disappointed by missing out on so much, said "Throughout this experience it's been tough, but I've also been trying to look at the positive and realize that everyone's going through this, too."
McMahon has been filling her time in quarantine making masks for those who need them and, after losing her job as a waitress, took up a position helping at Avamere, a facility serving senior citizens. She plans to pursue a career in nursing, so working as a caregiver is a step in the right direction for her. After high school, McMahon will finish her associate's degree at Mt. Hood Community College then enroll at OSU Linn-Benton for nursing.
"I love health care and helping people," she said. "As scary as it is right now, I got a job as a caregiver at Avamere and I'm excited to give some comfort to the residents."
McMahon said she is most disappointed about missing out on working to raise money for charity during her final Doernbecher Week. For three years, she helped organize the school's effort to raise money for the Doernbecher Children's Hospital, which culminated in a pageant at which senior boys competed for the title of Mr. Doernbecher and for raising the most funds.
"I was really excited to see my class (compete)," Bishop said of the Doernbecher pageant, which she also helped organize. "For it to just not happen is really sad. It's for such a great cause — it breaks my heart."
Bishop also was looking forward to one last luncheon with friends — reminiscing on grade school memories — and, of course, attending graduation.
"We've all worked so hard to get to this point, and to have it canceled is really disappointing," she explained.
After high school, Bishop will attend Southern Oregon University in the fall to study political science and a minor in criminology.
"I'm excited to go down there but it's kind of scary at the same time," Bishop said. "I'm really looking forward to college."
The idea that high school is just over now is bittersweet for Jenkins, who was looking forward to attending the prom he had a large hand in planning as the senior class president.
"Going to college (and) this feeling of being done with high school is inevitable, but feeling that this soon really bites," Jenkins said. "It really bummed me out that we're missing out on so many things we've looked forward to for years."
Jenkins will attend the University of Oregon to study business administration in the fall.
Jenkins said he appreciates how the Oregon Department of Education and the school district are working to accommodate students, but also recognizes that "in this situation, there's nothing you can really do" to make up for what the class of 2020 is losing.
"It's rolling with the punches," Jenkins said. "Everything is so uncertain. It's shocking to know it can all end that quickly. (I hope the underclassmen know to) enjoy every moment — really savor it. You don't realize how much you'll miss it until you don't have it."
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