Glen Cove High School seniors drove into the high school parking lot on Tuesday morning, walked to the football field and gathered, sort of, for a class photo, chatting in the bright sun. The scene was almost normal — except for the masks and the reminders to keep their distance — with students laughing and administrators giving directions as a drone flew overhead, and was the first of several events this spring meant to provide students with some traditional senior-year experiences.
“What we’re trying to do is bring school back to a sense of normalcy,” Principal Antonio Santana said. “It’s not repeating the events we did last spring, because last spring was so unique, but bringing back the traditional events. We’re going to start sprinkling in more student events. It’s been very unfortunate, because for adolescents and high school students, most of their socialization happens in school. And that’s really been the most heartbreaking piece, to remove that.”
By some accounts, the 229 students in the GCHS class of 2021 have had an even tougher year than the class of 2020. “Last year, at least, the kids had a normal senior year until mid-March,” said Joanne Yee, co-president of the Music Performing Arts Parent Association and the mother of a senior. “This year they lost everything.”
Yee and MPAPA Co-president Nicole Callahan started an Adopt-A-Senior fundraiser to let the seniors know that they haven’t been forgotten. They have so far raised enough money to buy embroidered fleece blankets, which were handed out after the class photo was taken. The goal is to raise enough to purchase three items for each member of the class.
The school operated on a hybrid model until March, when students were allowed to return in person five days a week. Since then, they have said they feel like the year is improving. Senior Nikolai Glouchlov acknowledged that it hasn’t been what he expected. “We haven’t been able to do the stuff we normally would be able to do,” he said. “It’s been challenging, but we’re getting through it.” Glouchlov added that posing for the class photo, and the return to in-person school, have helped make the experience better. “It feels good. It’s nice seeing all of my classmates.”
Delmy Henriquez said that there was a lot of uncertainty at the beginning of the year, and learning online was difficult for her. “I definitely focus more in the classroom,” she said. “It’s just really good to be somewhat back to normal. But it’s our senior year, and we didn’t get to have anything normal. We missed out on a lot, but the school really tried to make the best out of it, and I really appreciate that.”
Carolina Brasiello said that the hybrid model was difficult for her, especially for her mental health. “I almost gave up on school because it was so unmotivating,” she said. “We didn’t have that typical senior experience. But now, going back almost every day helps a lot. The best part is that now we’re all together, and slowly being back to normal. I like how we haven’t given up yet on everything.”
One thing that helped make this year better for Brasiello was the relatively last-minute Homecoming celebration earlier this month. “I never thought that we’d have a Homecoming,” she said. “It’s been a dream of mine to become Homecoming Queen, and I just won, so that was an amazing experience as well.”
“I feel like, going into this, we were all clueless, and it didn’t really hit us what was happening until we actually got into our senior year and realized that all of the events were off, and the spirit was crushed for us,” Alise Mazjane said. “So it’s nice to get something out of it.”
One of the biggest challenges Brasiello said she faced was completing college applications without the hands-on support of a teacher. “Doing that whole process online and asking our teachers questions via email was pretty difficult,” she said. “But I think we all got through it, and I think we all learned about technology.”
Mazjane agreed. “I think the hardest part was the college process,” she said, “because it feels like it happened very fast and we didn’t have guidance for it.”
“This year has definitely been a learning experience,” she added, noting that she believes the time spent alone helped her and her classmates grow and become more independent. “We had that time alone, so we could focus on what we want to do and figure out our feelings and our futures, so I think that was beneficial. But it was hard, because we were all isolated.”
“The students are fantastic — they’ve been really good sports about this,” Santana said. “These kids are missing out on what are typically formative years in all of our lives. We’re trying to make the best of a bad situation.”
The school was scheduled to host a drive-in Senior Movie Night on Thursday, after the Herald went to press, and Santana said that plans for a senior prom and graduation were in the works. Those interested in donating to the class of 2021 can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.