The Class of 2021 joined a long line of graduating classes in concluding their time as high school students. While many classes have preceded them, their experience is unique. Their junior year was suddenly cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, many never returned to the classroom and have now completed their final two and a half semesters virtually. 

Jenai Miller, a 2021 graduate of James Madison Memorial High School, tells UMOJA Magazine about unfulfilled senior traditions and how she turned adversity into strength. This fall she will attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

Here is Jenai’s senior year experience in her own words. 

As a senior in COVID, the year was and still is not the easiest. With missing out on Prom, in school relationships, homecoming, senior ditch day, pep rallies, and so much more I cannot stress enough how COVID impacted and affected me. I was looking forward to and felt I missed out on the “traditional” senior related activities. 

The Class of 2021 will be graduating in-person at Mansfield Stadium on Saturday, June 12th 

As for online school, even though we only had to wake up and open a computer every morning with three-to-four classes a day, it sounds like it was a luxury, but it really wasn’t. 

I learned I am a visual, hands on learner. It is hard to really focus and learn when it is only the teacher talking for an hour and I am forced to just take notes. What made it exceptionally difficult was that there was a limited relationship between me and the teacher. At least when I was in class, I had to listen to them and write notes because they were staring right at me, I was being held accountable. Being at home and no one watching it was a lot easier to get off task and not pay attention.  

What this pandemic and new school system has taught me is this: You are responsible for yourself and what you want to accomplish, the older you get the more independent you have to be. No one is going to be breathing down your neck and telling you to do your work. That is on you and only you. Online school has really taught me that because I no longer have teachers telling me when my assignments are due or when there is a test. I had to and have to read my emails and look at Google Classrooms and set reminders for myself and plan accordingly.  

What I also learned is you don’t always have “next year” or “next week” to start getting your grades right, or life together, or whatever goal or must do’s you have. Start today, start now! There is no perfect time or day for you to do that thing you want because life is going to toss you huge curveballs that you are never going to be ready for and sometimes you aren’t going to get another chance.

Lastly, although I missed homecoming and prep rallies and other activities that would have been fun.  I realized what I have ahead of me, and these small inconveniences are just little raindrops in the lake I have formed. Yes, each raindrop does make the lake larger, but I have so many more memories that I’ve made instead and even more to make as I move forward in life.