While seniors at Ahwatukee’s two largest high schools are still hoping commencement will go on as scheduled next month, their 92 counterparts at Horizon Honors Secondary School already know that the pandemic has taken away that rite of passage.
“It is disappointing that all of the festivities for senior year have been canceled – like our graduation commencement, my final choir concert, prom, graduation parties, signing yearbooks and more,” said Aden Molinar.
Yet, the Ahwatukee teen is philosophical – if somewhat melancholic.
“While it is extremely disappointing,” he said, “it would be irresponsible to not postpone or cancel school and other events involving large social gatherings. We will forever be remembered as the class that never had a real end to our senior year, with a graduation or a prom.”
Horizon’s website lists a parade of activities that have fallen by the wayside after its campus was closed, though Principal Cynthia Shaheen has told seniors, “I am 100 percent committed to still hosting many of the senior functions and especially graduation, even if it is in July.”
Xin Hwei Lim was deeply involved in planning the prom and other activities as a student council member, but feels more for some of her classmates.
Personally, I am not taking it too hard,” she said. “However, I know that there are a lot of my friends and other seniors that are extremely disappointed, which is what makes me more sad.”
Like other schools, Horizon quickly instituted remote learning for all 12 grades.
While relatively satisfied with it, they are not at all satisfied with what’s missing from their campus experience.
“I think that we have more than enough resources to continue learning with homework assignments online and daily access to video calls with teachers,” said Aiden. “I feel that I am continuing my preparation for college.”
Marisela Rivera said, “Horizon Honors developed a great plan in such a difficult time, and did so very quickly. I think, honestly, it’s working great for the situation we are in.”
Kieran Andrew confessed, “While it has been nice to work alone more often, the more casual home environment makes it difficult for me to stay motivated and on task.”
It’s not the learning that’s a problem.
“My involvement in extracurriculars has been hampered,” Kieran said. “For example, I work for a neuroscience lab at ASU. While we still have weekly Zoom meetings there are many projects, including the one I was helping with, that have been slowed or on hold due to the closure. I miss not being able to interact face to face with people, although I am still keeping in contact with them frequently through texts or calls.”
Senior and student body President Caileigh Burdette was event lead for the school’s annual Relay for Life and worked on preparing the prom.
“I feel very sad about the prom getting canceled for two reasons,” she said. “It was going to be a time to spend with my senior friends that looked back on all our years and dances spent together. Two, the senior class in the Student Council had put a lot of time and effort into planning a dance that would be remembered.”
For some, there’s an anguished desire for a return to life before COVID-19, though the seniors realize that’s a dream they certainly won’t come true before their high school career is over.
“I think delaying things like prom, graduation and things like the grad trip are truly annoying and I would just like things to get to a point where I could have a somewhat normal graduation or at least a normal last week of senior year,” said Joseph Aljets.
“However,” Joseph added, “I would much rather not have the possibility of being exposed.”
While filled with regret and disappointment, however, the Horizon seniors not only were philosophical but also not content to sit and feel sorry for themselves.
“My club soccer season was cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Aden. “I was supposed to attend a tournament in Las Vegas, which was canceled due to the virus. I also had been very involved in various school clubs including being vice president of key club, a member of NHS, and president of Protect our Earth club.
“Instead, I have found other ways to positively impact my community, such as by donating blood and starting an Instagram page called teensagainstcovid, which promotes ways for my peers and me to remain productive while quarantined at home.”
Kieran lamented, “I am more disappointed to be missing out on this current period of my life, as high school graduation only occurs once, but I realize there are other moments to look forward to as well.”
Xin said, “I also very much miss the school environment and seeing all my friends and teachers and to think that we’ll never be able to have our last day of ‘normal’ high school is extremely sad.”
But, she added, “There will still be other fun events in the future.”
Marisela Rivera said, “Going to school every day and seeing people you have quite literally grown up with and grown close with, you develop a pattern. Then, all of a sudden, there is a break in the pattern and you are told you can’t see people you easily see every day – it’s hard. Some people take it lightly, but for me, it’s been hard.”
“It’s a hard idea to wrap my head around. It would have been my last high school dance ever,” she added, “but I must say, I am also very grateful I went to previous prom and homecoming dances.”
Noting the things she and her classmates are missing, Marisela added, “To have it taken away without really knowing it was going to happen -- makes me wish I did not take the beginning of the school year for granted.”
Added Caileigh, “I was looking forward to ending my years at Horizon Honors with people I have been going to school with since elementary.”
But, Caileigh said, “I feel that at the moment a lot has been taken away, but I also believe that everything will work out to what it is supposed to be. This will definitely be a moment that is remembered in history."