From the end of their sophomores years, nothing was normal for the Class of 2022
There was one final graduation over the weekend for Clark County high schools, the final class of the Class of 2022 to celebrate.
The Class of 2022 will always be remembered for enduring the shock of the first shutdown of schools when they were sophomores. That was followed by the confusion and uncertainty of remote learning. Plus the frustration with the cancellation and/or rescheduling of extracurricular activities. And finally, as seniors, there was a return to a more traditional schedule.
Certainly not a normal senior year, but hope had returned.
Over the past couple of weeks, Clark County Today talked to 11 students representing six schools from the region, to get their thoughts on how the Class of 2022 succeeded throughout the pandemic.
If they made it to graduation this month, they powered through events that were unimaginable prior to 2020.
“It went by so fast,” said Lara Carrion of Seton Catholic. “Feels like it was yesterday we were at our homes doing online school. It’s amazing to see how far the Class of 2022 has come from being in lockdown.”
Here are some of the stories of the Class of 2022:
La Center High School
La Center High School held its graduation ceremony on Saturday, The district had a late start to the school year, indirectly related to the pandemic. Construction on the district’s new middle school was delayed due, in part, to supply shortages, which led to the school year lasting well into June.
For students, it was just one more thing added to a bizarre experience the past couple of years.
Makena Campbell recalled, as sophomores, when they were “super excited” about a couple of extra weeks of spring break. At first, it was just going to be a pause to normal life, to flatten the curve.
“It was like a shock,” Austin Mattson said of the announcement of the lockdown.
Still, he too, believed it would be over quickly.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a deal.”
It quickly became apparent that that estimate was way off.
“Yeah, two weeks?” Campbell said with disgust.
“That was really hard for a lot of people,” Campbell said. “We were isolated. No school work. No classmates. No teachers.”
Junior year, they were home, staring at screens.
“For me, the hardest part was to actually learn and retain information while learning from Zoom,” Campbell said. “It was hard to stay involved and keep school spirit when you’re stuck at home all day, not seeing your classmates or teachers.”
“A year later, we were still stuck at home,” Mattson said. “We lost a lot of the social skills we used to have. It was a big transition going back to school.”
Plus, there were no spring sports in 2020, and then all sports for the 2020-21 school year were delayed and then on an abbreviated schedule.
“My sports kind of serve as a mental health refresher,” Mattson said. “Not being able to go to school and play sports, that was a pretty hard thing.”
By senior year, the traditional sports schedule returned. So, too, did the academic schedule. With a few twists.
“It wasn’t normal, per se, but it was something,” Campbell said.
There was an outside homecoming event in the fall. And La Center held a prom in the spring.
The Wildcats did what they could to thrive.
“The teachers, the friendships, the memories I’ve made at La Center High School are going to last my whole life,” Campbell said. “My teachers have helped me so much. La Center High School is like a big family.”
The pandemic, Mattson said, has helped him and his classmates have a deeper appreciation for everything.
“The majority of kids in our class … they want to go out and do something to make the world a better place,” he said.
Before they left, though, this year’s seniors hope they started a new tradition at La Center. On the final day of classes for seniors this year, they all returned to campus and sat together on the football field to watch the sunset.
Union High School
Jessa Teas said she and a lot of her classmates went from understanding the lockdown to being frustrated by it in a hurry.
It just kept getting “extended and extended,” she said.
“It was very hard for me to focus on school, dealing with not seeing my friends in the same activities,” said Teas, a cheerleader and a talented singer who loves being part of the choir. “I was away from the things I love. It was hard going day to day without having motivation.”
Teas said she started “pretty well” with online school, but it got difficult.
“It started taking a toll on me. It made it hard to focus and strive for getting good grades,” she recalled.
By the end of her junior year, Union was doing hybrid learning — online part time and on campus part time.
“That made it easier,” she said, just seeing teaching and classmates in person again.
But with social distancing and masks, it was still a tough task to really feel like it was school again.
In the end, though, the pandemic did bring some positives into Teas’ life. She vowed to get involved in new things as a senior.
“I was into more clubs and trying to make sure I’d get amazing, long-lasting friends,” Teas said. “Having people beside me I had never met before and now I love has been the coolest thing for this year.”
Teas plans on attending Portland Bible College to study worship leading.
“It feels like a big jump from being a kid at school to being an adult and working toward a career,” Teas said. “I’m excited to close off this chapter and (I’m) really excited for the next.”
Another Union Titan looking forward to what’s next is Tobias Merriweather. A superb athlete and student, he is going to Notre Dame to play football.
“It’s been a challenge for everyone,” he said of the pandemic.
He said his classmates all had a decision to make: “Sink or swim,” he said.
For him, he tried to get stronger, physically and mentally.
“It made me want to work harder. It made me more motivated, more grateful for what you have,” Merriweather said. “Leave it all on the field because you never know when it will be taken away again.”
Seton Catholic High School
Alex Arredondo and Lara Carrion are two of 12 graduates from Seton Catholic who are going to compete in college athletics.
“Having to trudge through such adversity is difficult, and a lot of people lost their drive,” Arredondo said. “They didn’t get to see friends, and they didn’t really have that personal bond they have with teachers. It was really easy to be at home and just give up.”
Arredondo is heading to Georgia Tech to study and be a cheerleader.
“In life, you can show up or show out. You can do what you need to do or take the easy road,” Arredondo said. “Our class (proved) you can make it through the worst of it and also make the best of what you have.”
Carrion is going to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo to study and to run cross country and track and field.
“Everyone, collectively, is upset that we missed out on our past two years,” she said.
At the same time, she is thrilled that she and her fellow graduates figured out how to overcome the obstacles. For her, she is going to be an NCAA student-athlete.
“You have no idea how things would have turned out if things were normal,” she said.
Columbia River High School
Caroline Hansen had great study habits … prior to the pandemic.
“I was very on top of my assignments,” she said.
Then everything changed. First, the initial lockdown with weeks of no instruction. Then the move to remote learning.
“I didn’t know how to study again. I was not very good at my organizational skills,” she said. “That was probably my hardest part, getting back into school and remembering how to study or when to do homework.”
Her senior year, though, she made up for all the lost time. She went to pretty much every event. A state champion volleyball player, of course she went to practice and played in her matches, but she also made sure to go to every other event that would fit her schedule.
“I got closer to a lot of people, closer to people you really appreciate,” she said.
Ridgefield High School
Emily Vossenkuhl won a state volleyball championship with the Spudders her sophomore year, a few months before the world shut down. The Spudders finished second in state her senior year.
In between, she and her classmates missed out on a lot.
But Vossenkuhl also appreciates what she gained.
“COVID, for me, it allowed me to find myself again,” Vossenkuhl said. “I know some people got really stressed out. I took it with grace. I found out who I was. It was frustrating for volleyball because I missed a whole year. That was a setback. But going into senior year, I took in everything I could. I did all the social events I could. COVID definitely taught me to live in the moment. I’m appreciative of that.”
Hockinson High School
Ellie Ritter takes a positive attitude toward everything the Class of 2022 went through since the beginning of the pandemic.
“I feel like we are so lucky,” she said.
As seniors this year, with the return of a more traditional schedule, it was up to them to “put the school on our back” and bring the energy back to campus.
“We know what it can be and we’re not going to stop until we can fulfill that and give everyone the best experience we could,” Ritter said. “It’s been such an amazing year. It was so awesome to have it again.”
Jackson McNair recalled freshman year, when the class first got to feel what it was like to be a high school student. It was taken away during sophomore year.
Then there was remote learning as a junior.
“It was a lot harder to pay attention,” McNair said. “When you’re at home, there are a million other things that can get you distracted. It was hard, grade-wise.”
But something else was happening that year among the students of the Class of 2022. They started hanging out after school, getting to know each other even better as they expressed their frustrations. They vowed to make their senior year special.
“Coming back to school, we were all family, all 170 of us,” McNair said. “We were able to have a lot more energy coming back.”
Mac Klodt agreed.
“Building relationships was big for our grade. We knew we needed to stay resilient through it all, stick with it, and stay motivated,” Klodt said. “We were all a little tired of it. But we stayed confident. We just dealt with it, stuck with it, and that’s what got us here.”
Senior year, they went to dances, they went to sporting events.
“We had the opportunity to make a good time the whole year,” Klodt said. “Seeing each other’s faces was a big part of it. It was awesome.”
Now, the Class of 2022 has graduated.
“It makes it that much sweeter because we had to go through so much,” Ritter said. “We are that much closer. We are proud we could come back here with a positive attitude and make the most out of it.”
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