Class of 2020, Douglas County: Together, apart

Local graduating high school seniors share their thoughts

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Amelia Greek, Castle View High School, Castle Rock

What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss seeing all my friends and classmates every day and I wish I could've said goodbye to all my teachers that have helped me grow so much over the past four years. I also am sad that we didn't have the moving up assembly because I was looking forward to hearing, "Class of 2020 it's time to move up," and then getting to walk out of school surrounded by all the people that loved and supported me throughout the past four years. 
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The toughest part about going through this uncertain time is just not knowing what's going to happen next and just not being able to do the things I love. Sometimes I really wish I could go play volleyball or go to the mall with my friends. It's definitely hard not knowing when things will go back to normal, but I still appreciate the fact I can still hang out with my friends even if it's from six feet apart.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
The lessons I want to take away from this is to just always stay hopeful no matter the situation and to know that good things come out of every situation. I think this pandemic is a great example of how uncertain life is and how important it is to take every day as a gift and never go without telling people you love them. So many things in life go unappreciated and I hope that after all this ends we all learn to appreciate everything, no matter how big or small.
 

Mackenzie Boyd, Castle View High School, Castle Rock

What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss all of the end of the year events. I wish we could have had an in-person performing arts banquet and that we did not have to push thespian inductions until next year. I wanted to watch my friends perform in the VPA revue. I wanted to sign others' yearbooks and was looking forward to fellow student's writing in mine. I wanted to go to the Bobby G awards, even if we were not nominated this year or did not win, as it would have been fun to celebrate all of our hard work. And of course, I wish we could have graduated at Red Rocks. I was a junior escort last year and I remember how the venue made the event feel even more special. All of these events have the same thing in common, which is spending more time with people I may never see again. So many people — peers, friends, teachers, and staff alike — helped me to be where I am today. Not being able to tell them in person how much I appreciate and love them is disheartening, but I hope I can get the message across some in other ways.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
My brother and I have CVID (Common Variable Immunodeficiency) which puts us at greater risk of hospitalization and life-threatening complications should we contract COVID-19, as we do not possess an immune system that is strong enough to fight this virus. This event has shown me that there are many good people in this world who are willing to help my family and others. Community members reached out to bring us groceries, brought gifts to celebrate my senior year, and my father's employer is allowing my dad to continue to work from home. But it has also shown me how certain members of our society view others as disposable: the sick, the disabled, prisoners in jail, the elderly. There is a very palpable feeling of disregard for human life in that sense, of a “them” versus “us” mentality that economics is more important than human life. That the healthy should be allowed to go to work, and “you people '' with health conditions or who are elderly should stay at home. It is causing a stigma that I don't think is being discussed. It makes me very concerned. 
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
Our shared experience of grief and fear connects us more than we realize, but this connection is linked to something much more central to the human spirit. There are so many good people in this world, and it is jaw-dropping to think that it comes down to a worldwide pandemic for people to learn of the kindness that is inherent in most of us. I am touched by the first responders, doctors and nurses who give so much of themselves for our communities, but I am also amazed by the heroes who live right next door. It is the neighbor who checks in on the elderly woman who lives down the street that they don't even know the name of; the community member who offers to pick up groceries after just learning of their story on Nextdoor; the masks that are being made and sent to a community in another state when a cry for help is heard of on the evening news. It is in the tears shed for a community member who dies, even if they didn't know his name.  It is a grief shared by our common humanity. Heroes rise from the most unlikely of places, and I have realized that we all can be heroes if we just look up, reach out, and care.
 

Aiden Ingenthron, Castle View High School, Castle Rock

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss hanging out with my friends and communicating face-to-face with both my peers and teachers. These relationships have been super important to me, so it's been rough for me to sit at home without this interaction.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
For me, the toughest part about this has been the lack of physical interaction. I'm a very hands-on and social learner, and not having anyone to collaborate with (or even just talk to) has been difficult.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
I've definitely learned more about how essential group work is, and how important CV was for my development, not just as a learner, but as a person.
 

Caitlin Kim, Chaparral High School, Parker

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss being surrounded by people who are so kind and committed to everything that they do. Each of my teachers and the staff at Chaparral are so dedicated to not only helping us learn the material to the best of our ability, but also to become better people who are a little more kind, thankful, compassionate and hard-working each day. They always have encouraged me to be the very best that I can be whether that's in school or the way I live my life. I also miss my peers who have challenged me, grown with me, and celebrated alongside me through all of the ups and downs of high school. I will forever miss them and be thankful for their positive impact on my life.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
One of the toughest parts of going through this uncertain time has been trying to stay positive. Each day is a new opportunity to improve myself and the world around me, despite the uncertainty of the end result. It can be hard at times to stay motivated when I don't know how long this will last, and it can be even harder to stay positive after seeing all of the difficulties and struggles that others are facing in this crisis. I think that it is important to be able to view difficulty as opportunity in disguise and try to make the most of every day despite uncertainty that the future holds.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
One important lesson I have learned from this is to truly live in and appreciate each day and every moment. Our senior class quote was ironically appropriate for this year: "I wish you knew you were in the good ol' days before you left them." Our Class of 2020 has had so many amazing moments together, from Wish Weeks that united the community, to crosstown throw-down games that united schools, to even our own little moments and memories scattered throughout each year with people we love. From all of this, I have learned to not get stuck on yesterday, or worry about tomorrow, but to just take today and all of its moments and live for it and be thankful. You never know what tomorrow may bring, and dwelling on the past can never change it, but living in the moment allows you to live life to the fullest.
 

Sydney Brown, Chaparral High School, Parker

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
More than anything, I miss seeing my friends and teachers every day. I miss sticking around to chat with my teachers after class and visiting Mr. Larson in the library. I miss the sense of community amongst students and staff at Chaparral High School. It's just not the same over a computer screen. I also miss the events that should have happened, of course, such as prom, Wish Week, the talent show, and my final two performances as an Encore Player, but most of all, I miss the people.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The toughest part about going through this uncertain time is watching all of the bad news of people suffering and of events being canceled and not knowing when it will all come to an end. It is difficult not knowing if we'll get to have a graduation and have the chance to say goodbye to our teachers and friends. 
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
The biggest lesson that I will take away from this is to live in the moment. Life is unpredictable and we are never promised tomorrow. Yes, it's fun to look ahead and plan for the future, but we will never get back time that has passed. The best way to live is to soak in every moment and cherish the people in our lives because we never know how much time we have left with them and have no way of knowing if the future that we long for will ever come.
 

Aspyn Cavanaugh, Douglas County High School, Castle Rock

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
What I miss the most about not finishing my senior year on campus was all the things the seniors would have gotten to do. Like senior prom/after prom, senior sunset, senior day, and just having my last day in school and saying our last chant. I also miss not being able to be with my friends every day of the week and finishing with them. 
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The toughest part about this time is still focusing on school/learning while also trying to stay safe and healthy. Also being in isolation can drive everyone a little bit crazy.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
What I can take away from this whole experience is that I don't take things for granted because in a split second it can all be gone. Also, that sometimes we all have to go through hard things to come out stronger. And that is what I'm hoping for when this is all over.
 

Sarah Sams, Douglas County High School, Castle Rock

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss all the hugs I would've been able to give. Zoom hugs just cannot compare.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The hardest part about this pandemic is the distance we are forced to put between each other. We've had to find new ways to offer support to those that we love. It's forced us to adapt so that we may stand apart, together.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
I've learned that while life may be unexpected, there is always hope. No matter what has been lost, we will be able to recover.
 

Christopher Heckenkamp, Douglas County High School, Castle Rock

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss the little moments — the high fives, the laughs, and the conversations. I miss the feeling of being part of a community, and the endless "hellos" and "goodbyes" I said to friends every day. When our class met 12 years ago, it was a giant "hello." Now, I want the chance to see them, and have our final "goodbye."  
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The toughest part of social isolation is feeling like we're alone while we're going through adversity: Normally we have a support system — our friends, our teachers, our coaches — but now it's harder to connect to our community.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
In this time alone, I'm learning to understand who I am. Since it's harder to reach out to others, I'm reaching into myself, and building a better relationship with myself. Adversity is life's greatest teacher, as long as I'm willing to learn.
 

Ushmi Akruwala, Highlands Ranch High School

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss having a normal schedule. My friends and I met up in a teacher's classroom every morning to "hang out" before classes. It's hard not having a set schedule to do things. I miss seeing my teachers and interacting with other students, even those I rarely spoke to. I tend to be a pretty outgoing person, so it's been tough trying to stay connected with multiple people.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
I want to go to the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada to study Biological Engineering. However, to go to Canada to study, I need a study permit. Unfortunately, the Canadian consulates are closed due to COVID-19. Because of this, I am worried I won't get my permit in time to be able to go. I have already been accepted into the University of Guelph and have submitted my intent to enroll. But, because of the study permit situation, I wanted to have a backup plan in the States. For this reason, I also submitted an intent to enroll at the University of Colorado-Boulder (where I'm a biomedical science major). The toughest part of this uncertain time is still not knowing 100% where I will be going to college in the fall.
 
Another tough part is not being able to spend time with my friends and participate in the senior activities. We have worked very hard the last four years, and it's disappointing to not be able to celebrate everyone's accomplishments.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
This experience has taught me the importance of family. These last few weeks have given me the opportunity to spend time with my parents and sister. I have sincerely enjoyed having the time to interact with them more on a daily basis. I have also learned to stay positive. There are things in life we can't control. This situation is definitely one of them. I have to remind myself that things will get better and that it's best to see the brighter side of these situations. This has also taught me the importance of time management. With no set school schedule, it can be easy to slack off and fall behind. I'm assuming that this is what college will be like (more free time and control over my own schedule). I'm teaching myself to prioritize and keep up with my work.
 

Sophia Mickus, Highlands Ranch High School

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
What don't I miss! I miss being in the classroom, interacting with peers and teachers every day, and seeing the sea of familiar faces in the halls. Like many other seniors, I miss being able to look forward to prom and other senior activities, and I missed being able to cheer on the HRHS girls basketball team in their Final Four game. I miss catching up with friends in the library and chatting with the HRHS library staff personally. As a senior senator, I miss helping put together fun events for the school, such as senior sunset and our end-of-year assembly. I miss wearing my Falcon blue every Friday. I miss doing physics labs, and I miss lessons in my AP statistics class involving Oreos and candy. I miss talking with my teachers about their class, but also about life! And though they've done a great job keeping the spirit alive, I miss the HRHS Falcon Family! 
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The toughest part about this time is not knowing 100% what the future looks like. At the beginning of 2020, I would've said that I was going to be graduating on May 20 at Red Rocks; had graduation parties, celebrations and trips that I was looking forward to; and in the fall, I'd be a first-year at a college campus just like the classes before me. Now, it's been difficult coping with the fact that all of those exciting milestones are up in the air, but I have faith that they will come to fruition at some point, in some form. 
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
My Student Senate adviser, Mr. Odice, gave us the task to try to do five specific things every day over the course of two weeks while in remote learning in an attempt to better ourselves through these challenging times. It helped me realize that, even when days are passing by slowly, there's always something to gain. Whether it's learning something new, taking the initiative to reach out to old friends, being physically active, or even just taking the time to relax with a good movie, every day has something to offer.
 

Hunter Ball, Legend High School, Parker

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss interacting with students and teachers the most. That sense of community — that we are in it together — has definitely been tested as we could not be farther apart for our final quarter. I miss the fun lunches and socializing with friends. I miss being able to get help from a teacher in person. Most importantly, I think we all miss the normalcy and sureness of our lives before the quarantine.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The toughest part of quarantine for me is not knowing what is going to come out of this. We don't know when this pandemic will end, when we'll be able to go back to school, or even our normal lives. And arguably the worst part, we will all likely know someone who has been directly affected by the virus. There is little we can do but stay inside and hope for the best.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
I think the biggest takeaway from this is to really cut out what you don't love. Throughout this quarantine, there have been activities that I have realized I never truly felt happy doing, and there are activities that I miss more than anything. As long as we can come out of this with a better understanding about ourselves, I think we will all be able to work towards a better future.
 

Addison Lederer, Legend High School, Parker

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
What I miss most about being on the school campus is my teachers and advisers. Even with everything that has happened I have never felt alone or uncared for. The people at Legend High School have always made me feel loved, supported and strong. Legend High School isn't just a place I go to learn, it's where I go to see my family, it's where I feel at home. I come to school every day for myself, but I will succeed because of them. It has been hard going from seeing them every day to maybe seeing them on a video call once a week. 
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The toughest part about going through all of this has been losing my job and trying to figure out what my next step financially is. Having days where I'm eating close to one meal a day instead of three, and not knowing when society will get back to normal so people like me who are struggling can start getting back on their feet. The hardest part is the uncertainty and how hard it is to try and plan out what will happen next or how long this will last.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
Lessons I will take away from this include:
  • Not taking whatever freedoms you have for granted, because in a second those freedoms could be limited. 
  • Make sure you always have people you can turn to for support.
  • Make sure I always have extra toilet paper on hand.

Makenna Nystedt, Legend High School, Parker

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
Not being able to complete my senior year of high school on campus is something I never thought would happen. What I miss the most about this last quarter of school is being able to see my friends and do all the senior activities that happen at the end of the year. Because of COVID-19, I will no longer have a senior prom, senior ditch day, senior luncheon, amongst other things. I am thankful that DCSD is working with each school to be able to hold graduations for all of us. Graduation was one of the most important things I thought I was going to miss out on. 
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
I think the toughest part about having to stay home and social distance is just missing out on things so many other people got. My orientation for college was canceled and put into an online format, my graduation was postponed into the summer, I might not be able to spend my 18th birthday the way I thought I would. Missing out on all these things is something that I will never get back.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
Even though I am missing out on a lot, I am thankful for the lessons it has taught me. I have had to hold myself more accountable for doing work online. In school, it's easier to do your work in class or have an assignment done, but being home, it is harder to engage myself with schoolwork. The most important lesson I have learned is reflecting on what is happening in the world and knowing what I can do to help. My dad is at high risk of this virus, so it has been important to my family to take precautions and be careful when leaving the house to get groceries.
 

Joey Rasmussen, Lutheran High School, Parker

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss the community of Lutheran High School the most. Lutheran has and will always hold a very special place in my heart because of the close-knit community that is so prevalent there. I am certain that if I went to any other school my life would be headed in a very different direction.
 
Every teacher at Lutheran cares and desires to see all of us succeed in the classroom, but most importantly in life. Whenever I had an important life issue that I needed to talk through, I knew I could confidently go up to any teacher and they would be willing to help me out. I consider the teachers at Lutheran to be my friends and I have dearly missed being able to interact with them in person throughout the school day. 
 
Another integral aspect of the community at Lutheran is the student body and our interactions with each other. Three times a week we get to worship in chapel all together, which I have been thinking about a lot and just how special those times were. I was blessed enough to be a part of the worship class where we got the opportunity to make videos and share messages with the whole student body. Recently, we were reminiscing in our Zoom class about chapel this year and we watched a video from earlier this year. It made me emotional to see all of the students sitting in chapel as a community, because we missed out on that during these times. 
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
There have certainly been a lot of challenges during this time. I think the toughest part about going through all of this is knowing that there are experiences only high school seniors have that the class of 2020 missed out on. We did not get to say our goodbyes on our own terms, we missed out on our final spring sports seasons, and prom and graduation are looking bleak.
 
It will be hard once this whole thing has passed to see the next class get to experience everything that we did not. I was looking forward to my senior lacrosse season with such excitement and it was heart wrenching to have it ripped out from under me. Although, it is somewhat comforting to know that every senior in the country is going through this same trial.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
This is definitely a time of history. When my kids are in school, their history textbooks will have a section dedicated to the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 and I will get to tell them about it. When this all started and we learned that we probably were not going to be able to go back to school and spring sports were most likely being canceled, I was definitely a Debbie Downer. I was really apathetic about everything and did not understand why something like this would happen, especially at such an exciting time in my life. Why did this have to rip away the memories of my senior year? I have learned to never take anything for granted in my life throughout these past few months.
 
Lutheran High School will always hold a very special spot in my heart so it was really hard to say goodbye to that physical community so abruptly. Andy Bernard in The Office put it best when he said, “I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.” This pause in life has caused me to remember all of the great moments of senior year that I did get to be a part of. These memories include being a senior leader on the freshmen retreat and probably having more fun than the freshmen, dancing my socks off at the first homecoming ever held in the gym, cheering until my voice was gone at volleyball and basketball games, and being positively impacted by every faculty member and member of the student body.
 
Lutheran truly has had an eternal impact on my life and I know it has for so many of my classmates. To sum it up, I learned to appreciate every moment I had at Lutheran because I will cherish those for the rest of my days.
 

Brian Avner, Mountain Vista High School, Highlands Ranch

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
The thing I am most disappointed about regarding the quarantine is missing TSA Nationals. My teammates and I were super excited to utilize Mountain Vista's state-of-the-art engineering lab to improve our snap-together engineering educational toolkit and revise the design of our nautical-themed, 3D-printed board game. It saddens me a little that our hard work won't yield more than the good times we had working on our tech projects together.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
I miss the social parts of my life: having lunch with my friends, singing a cappella with my barbershop group, dancing with my hip-hop crew, and scooping ice cream for the kiddos at my job.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
Time goes by quickly when I have something to think about, which is why I'm taking courses on Udemy and MasterClass.
 

Nithyashri Eswaran, Mountain Vista High School, Highlands Ranch

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss not being able to see and be with my friends and teachers every day. Learning in person is a much more fulfilling and different experience compared to virtual instruction. Being surrounded by thoughtful and wonderful people is truly a privilege.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
Even normally, surrounding graduation there is a lot of anxiety about growing up, and the uncertain nature of the present has not made things easier. I would say our class hasn't received the closure we would have liked because of school ending so abruptly and our senior events being canceled. However, it should also be noted that the world is facing much more significant problems and the sacrifices being made with social distancing are ultimately saving lives and bettering society, which is worth it. Still, it is valid to feel badly — however, we should all empathize with the greater struggles others face.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
Nothing is guaranteed in life. We all experienced how drastically everything changed in a matter of days. There may not always be an opportunity for tomorrow, so it is important to not make excuses and act in the present. Also, because of the nature of this pandemic, it is clear to see how much influence health care has on society. Medical and health professionals are truly modern-day superheroes and I am hopeful to contribute to this field in the future.
 

Jenna Fitzsimmons, Mountain Vista High School, Highlands Ranch

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
What I miss most about not being on campus is the interaction with other students.The last four years, I have truly relished being surrounded by such amazing friends, students, and teachers, and it was very hard not interacting with these incredible people every day. This is a very pivotal point in many people's lives, and it was very hard to think about moving onto the next chapter without seeing where others were headed or without getting to say a proper goodbye. I am so thankful for the incredible teachers who I had the chance to learn from; the incredible people who made me laugh every day; and all the people who embraced our crazy school culture and made the most out of our experience.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
One of the toughest parts of going through this time was the uncertainty. I was very optimistic about hopefully returning to school to complete the semester beside my classmates and being able to celebrate our accomplishments from the last four years. Once we officially moved to remote learning, it was very challenging not knowing if we would have the opportunity to properly close off our senior year. I have greatly appreciated everything Douglas County, the school board, and Mountain Vista have done to ensure the Class of 2020 will be able to conclude this year in an altered, but proper manner.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
Something I have learned from this experience is to never take any moment for granted. I think it is very common for seniors to experience “senioritis” or feel like they have outgrown high school. Unable to attend school or interact with peers made me realize I have to cherish whatever moment I am in. It is very easy to get swept up into the possibilities of the future, but it is also very important to appreciate where you are right now. This experience also made me realize how important the Class of 2020 is to me. I have truly missed seeing all of their faces every day. The absence of interacting with others on a daily basis drove me to realize how important being a part of this community is. Mountain Vista has such a unique culture, built upon kindness, spirit, and our incredible student body and staff. I am so thankful for the experiences and culture Mountain Vista has fostered.

 

Kayla Fairweather, Ponderosa High School, Parker

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss the in-person interaction with my teachers and friends more than anything. I don't think I realized what an important part of my high school experience that was until now. I was never an extremely talkative person in school, but spending time with friends was definitely meaningful. I also miss some of the special senior events like the Senior Assembly and Mr. Mustang.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The toughest part for me has been trying to stay in contact with others. I've talked on the phone with some of my close friends, but I realize that there are some people who I might not see in-person again before leaving for college. I also think it's been tough talking with some friends but not being able to actually go out and do activities together.
 
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
I have had the chance to step away from the hustle and bustle of life and realize that I don't need to be busy all the time. I think that when activities do resume, I'll have a greater appreciation for them and be able to better manage my time. I've also been able to make spending time with my family more of a priority in my life. When these uncertain times are over, I think my relationships with my family and friends will be much stronger, and I'll make the most of the time I do have with those I care about.
 

Emily Kaemmerling, Renaissance Secondary School, Castle Rock

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
We only had one more quarter of driving to school every day and interacting with people who have shaped who we are. While school was not my favorite place on earth, I miss going to school and interacting with people I may never see again and others that I will stay connected with but will miss dearly.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The sense of loss and grief has been the toughest part of this time. I have been fortunate enough to not have lost someone to this virus, but I have lost many experiences that I have waited for my whole academic life. I remember being a freshman and being so excited to walk across the stage myself or have my friends and teachers sign my yearbook for the last time. It is hard to know that you deserve to celebrate and yet will be in front of a screen for your high school graduation. It is hard to accept that something I have pictured will look completely different.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
Know there is always a rainbow after the storm, but most importantly your roots will keep you grounded during the rush.

 

Krista Luttkus, Renaissance Secondary School, Castle Rock

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I will miss being on campus for the last quarter of my senior year. At my school (an expeditionary learning school), we had many exciting plans for this quarter. My teachers had planned many service opportunities to help the seniors serve their community one last time before they go out into the world. My school had planned a celebratory rafting trip for the seniors which I was looking forward to going on. Lastly, I will miss my school's inaugural graduation, and my class will not have a chance to create lasting traditions for the school, as we had hoped to do. Nevertheless, my senior class and I are creating new traditions despite these challenges. Proving our school is not just a place, but a community which supports everyone and which persists, despite challenges! 
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
For me, the toughest part of going through this uncertain time is trying to maintain all of my advocacy efforts, online learning, and most importantly, the emotional and physical safety of my family. Since I have ADHD, I struggle with executive functioning issues, which means that I struggle to sit down and focus on one thing at a time. Typically, before COVID-19, I would compartmentalize which would help me remember to do everything that needed to be done, but now everything happens in the same place, so I struggle. Sometimes I will completely forget I had an online meeting or an assignment.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
The biggest lessons I will take away from this experience are learning about myself by reflecting on my past, seeing ways I can improve myself for the future, and showing me how resilient our whole community can be.
 
I have learned so much about myself during this time. I have been taking this extra time to slow down and compare myself to the person I was at the beginning of high school. I have changed so much. At the beginning of my freshman year, I was faced with a similar challenge of having to do the majority of my schoolwork online. Finishing off my senior year doing the same feels bittersweet, but also shows me how much I have grown academically and as a person. 
 
I have also learned during this time ways I can improve myself for the future or at least adapt my surroundings to help me. Faced with new challenges, like not being able to leave home, I have learned more about what I need to be successful, such as what types of environments work best for me and how to use technology to help me be more efficient and productive. Yes, I could learn that in other ways, but only in a pandemic, with time to spare, can I thoroughly evaluate what this info means for me.
 
Lastly, I learned how much our community can adapt. It gives me hope to see our community rallying together to support one another. People are supporting one another by supporting local businesses. People stay home to protect the vulnerable people in our lives. People are learning to appreciate the nature outside of our doors that often get forgotten about. People are saying hello (from a distance) to neighbors who hardly see each other. And people are rallying around medical professionals and other essential workers who often get forgotten. Sometimes, my generation feels like the world is full of horrible people, but in these moments, it shows us that the world is good and full of good people. That's the most important thing I learned.
 

Grant Ferry, Rock Canyon High School, Highlands Ranch

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss seeing my friends, especially my teachers and my peers in the Rock Canyon band program.  
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The toughest part of going through this uncertain time is not participating in Senior Week or graduation, as I will already be in basic training before the United States Air Force Academy academic year begins. I look forward to watching the graduation video sometime in the fall.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
My greatest lesson learned is to grieve the loss of our senior year and all of the "lasts," but to focus on the future and all of the adventures and opportunities ahead.
 

Anand Chundi, SkyView Academy, Highlands Ranch

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss interacting with my peers in-person on a daily basis. Everything from celebrating the end of our senior year to simply having discussions in the hallways is something that always kept school engaging for me.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
These times are certainly uncertain. The situation surrounding the pandemic is constantly evolving and changing, and the hardest part of it is not knowing how the next day will play out.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
These times have forced me to stay isolated from most of the people I know, but they have also taught me that the time we spend with our friends and family is priceless.
 

Ethan Montgomery, STEM School Highlands Ranch

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss my friends and the school community as a whole. You learn a lot more in person.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The hardest part is not knowing when it will end. No one has an answer, or even an estimate, as to when this will be over which concerns me.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
The biggest lesson I've taken from all of this is to focus on what you have and what you're working towards and not focus on what you don't have or what you are missing out on. I probably won't get a graduation. I missed out on all of the fun, end-of-senior-year activities. In a way, that's 13 years of work that won't get celebrated. It's unfortunate, but I really don't get caught up on it because nothing comes from moping. I can't help the fact that graduation was canceled, and nothing comes from feeling bad about it, so I just moved on to the next thing. Often, we are concerned with what we are missing out on or we hope for more ideal situations in life before we can be happy, but this is not a practical mindset. I've found it much more helpful to analyze what's going on in my life and then figure out what steps I can take from where I am at to reach my goals. Oftentimes, you have to align the stars yourself.
 

Keely McFall, Valor Christian High School, Highlands Ranch

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
I miss being with all of my classmates, even the ones I'm not closest to, because they push me to do better and work harder as they all inspire me so much.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The toughest part is that I thought it would be isolated to high school events, so I grieved losing that part of my life. But as the pandemic continues, it seeps further into my future, including university plans.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
I know now that I'm so blessed to be able to live in such a beautiful state that I can explore. I appreciate going outside so much more than before. More than anything, though, I won't take employment for granted, and my thoughts continue to be with those who are suffering much more than I am in this time.
 

Maddyson Stadler, ThunderRidge High School, Highlands Ranch

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss seeing my friends, teachers and the camaraderie within the senior class. I miss all the events that we had planned (prom, graduation, last blast, yearbook signings, etc.).
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
It has been hard to learn schoolwork in some classes when I am having troubles, but it's nice that teachers are online during certain times of the day to answer questions quickly.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
The lesson I will take from my senior year is to not take school for granted, it is a fun and amazing time to know people and just learn about yourself. You learn so much when you take different classes that you never would've thought you'd enjoy. I have learned so much about myself and will take this with me to my new chapter in life.
 

Melanie Zhou, ThunderRidge High School, Highlands Ranch

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I miss the sense of purpose being at school gave me socially and academically. The best parts of my days used to be giving my friends hugs, high-fiving a classmate, or chatting with a teacher in-person. I miss the excitement of being in a class and sharing joy with my classmates after figuring out a hard problem. Being at school allowed me to contribute to a community. By having to finish my senior year remotely, I felt a bit lost without the structure and social interactions of being on campus. The community of a campus gave me purpose to wake up (almost) every morning.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The toughest part about going through this uncertain time has been the constant feeling of loss. High school seniors lost prom and graduation. My family members lost their jobs. My neighbors lost loved ones. My friends and I have lost time together before we leave for college. I might have lost my freshman college experience on campus. While things are changing, I hope we can find new things to be excited about.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
From this crisis, I have learned purpose, independence and self-care. This crisis reinforced the importance of mental health. I have developed new strategies like running and meditation that will help me get through hard times throughout my life. I have reevaluated my relationships and my commitments to understand what truly makes me genuinely happy. My biggest takeaway from all of this is a stronger sense of self, which is both powerful and comforting.
 

Shae Henley, ThunderRidge High School, Highlands Ranch

 
What do you miss the most about not being on campus to finish your senior year?
 
I would say the thing I miss the most is having the opportunity to see my friends each day. As a high school student, your life tends to revolve around school; you spend most of the week in class, you have to keep up with assignments and study for exams, and many people are heavily involved in activities that are extensions of school (sports, music, clubs, etc). The absence of school and these activities has made it painfully clear how much students depend on school to be involved.
Additionally, it's where I can see most of my friends on a regular basis. We share classes and off periods, and it can be difficult to make plans together outside of school. After a month spent almost entirely at home, I've come to realize that it's the smallest things that I miss the most. I miss being able to see my friends across the hallway and wave to them, and I miss laughing with them in class. I miss talking to my section in the band before we have to play, and my required early-morning NHS and Tri-M meetings. I miss running with my team in track, and our workouts after school. I miss being nervous with my teammates before a race and celebrating when we finished. I miss getting lunch with friends, talking about anything that comes to mind, complaining about tests and homework and still knowing it would all work out.
 
It's the small things that you don't realize have the biggest impact; our high school experience isn't just made up of the biggest events in the year, but of every day and moment. That's what I miss the most, the little moments with my friends. Being a senior makes this time even more difficult; the end of high school means that some of us won't see each other again. This is always bittersweet, but you usually know when it's coming. With the abrupt end to this year, it's hard to accept that you've already had your last memories with your friends. We can still hang out this summer, but never again in a school setting, and not with the rest of our classmates. We don't have the chance to see all of our classmates and teachers again, or go to one last practice or competition, and I'll miss that the most.
 
What has been the toughest part about going through this uncertain time?
 
The hardest part is the change. In the past few weeks, the world itself has had to adjust to everything that's happened. With the government imposing restrictions on businesses and social gatherings, I think most people are experiencing some shock from this situation. For me, I've struggled the most with routine, as I'm used to going to school every day, and online classes are an entirely different style of learning. The loss of extracurriculars is also hard to adjust to, as most of the activities I'm involved in had already made plans or goals for the spring. In track, our team was already running workouts and putting in mileage to prepare for the season, and our 4-by-800-meter team wanted to see if we could compete at the state meet.
 
Additionally, our school's wind ensemble group had qualified for the CBA State Concert Band Festival for the first time, and we planned to travel to CSU to perform in April. I was looking forward to both of these events, and it's difficult to come to terms with the fact that they won't happen.
 
Furthermore, everyone places an emphasis on senior year, and there's a lot of excitement surrounding second semester. It's the last part of high school, where everyone finishes up their classes, goes to senior prom, says goodbye to teachers and the school, and graduates. Many students have been preparing for this since freshman year and see the graduation ceremony as their final step in high school, and what they've worked hard for. All of this is now canceled or tentatively moved, and it's hard to cope with that change — the shift from certainty to unpredictability has been a struggle. I think the hardest part is not being able to do anything to change this; everyone in the world has been affected, and the problem isn't going to disappear overnight. It's difficult to accept the fact that everything has suddenly changed, and we won't have the opportunity to have the experiences we've missed out on.
 
What lessons will you take away from all of this?
 
I've learned how important it is to appreciate what you have. At the beginning of this year, I couldn't even imagine this happening; I was thinking I would start and finish my last year as planned, and there wouldn't be any big life-changing events. As the world changed, I learned how important the smaller parts of life can be. I mentioned this earlier too, but I think it's the day-to-day experiences you have that define your life. We tend to look forward to the `big' events, like a vacation or a special day, and tend to overlook the meaning that everyday life has. For example, at the beginning of the year, I disliked having to go shopping or run chores. They were just another thing on my to-do list. Now, with stores being closed or working at limited capacity, I realize how lucky I was. Being able to meet up with friends, eat at a restaurant, go to school and shops — I took all of that for granted. I also never would have expected school to be closed; in the last 12 years in my life, school has been a constant presence. It could get monotonous, and some classes were difficult, but I largely depended on it to see friends each day and participate in other activities, like sports and music. With the abrupt shift to online classes, and cancellations or postponements of activities and large events, I realize how much everything has changed, and how lucky

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