The Class of 2022 is one for the history books and has arguably had to prevail through the most trying and soul-straining circumstances seen in a long time.
By Sarah Hoffer
If you would have looked at anyone in the graduating Class of 2022 and told them that they would be completing their high school education through a global history-making pandemic and be the first to test run new never-before-seen learning technology, they would probably look at you and laugh.
Sure enough, that’s exactly what we did.
The Class of 2022 is one for the history books and has arguably had to prevail through the most trying and soul-straining circumstances seen in a long time. Although no one expected it to be like a high school musical, our situation made high school feel more like an apocalypse movie. Our only full non-restricted year was our freshman year: a double-edged sword considering that we were able to experience one year of normalcy, yet it was a taste of an experience and events we would never be able to participate in over the next three years. We watched event after event we had been looking forward to getting postponed and canceled; learned about every new mandate required; and made every tough decision we needed to take into consideration our education and our safety. We heard every phone call alerting us that there was a new confirmed COVID-19 case and watched our friends graduate in pixels as our hope for a normal senior year fizzled out.
When senior year did finally arrive, we returned to a school that felt unfamiliar to us: teachers and peers whose faces we’d never actually seen; new rules in place; and signs telling us to wear a mark and explaining how to wash our hands. The opening of a nearby relief school caused numerous longstanding teachers to leave, and Ocoee High School was left with numerous positions to fill in a time when teachers were more scarce than ever before. The senior class felt lost.
Nevertheless, we prevailed. Despite our self-doubt and academic hindrance, we finished with the highest graduation rate in the district and in school history. Despite our class being faced with one of the toughest years for college admissions ever seen before, we ended with 15 students being admitted to top schools — more students than ever before. Despite a pandemic that drastically impacted our mental health, we all managed to finish what we started and are preparing to graduate in a few short weeks.
We did it. We earned our scores, worked for our community service hours, turned in our applications, and are preparing to leave this school year as people transformed by change we never expected but are better because of. We learned lessons in a few years that it takes some people lifetimes to learn. If there is one thing we can take away from our school year destined for the history books, it is this: All of our report cards; SAT scores; acceptance and rejection letters; competition results; personal records; peer reviews; band concerts; offers; and number of followers or friends mean nothing if we are no longer here to experience and cherish them. These things do not define who we are; they just shape us into the people we are working to become. We never really know who we are meant to be, until we find ourselves being that person. We have learned to lean on one another, to support each other and that our struggles are easier when we carry them together. We celebrate our successes, learn from our failures and continue to move forward. Whatever happens, we know the most important thing is to just keep being.
The Class of 2022 has shaped the culture and community of this school, and our impact will last long beyond the time we leave. Our determination to practice acts of service and create events for us to enjoy while keeping people safe is one to admire and to be continued. We truly are unlike any other class, and I cannot wait to discover the people we are meant to become.
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