High school seniors share their “silver linings” amidst a year cut short

As the weather gets warmer and summer slowly draws near, high school seniors would normally be donning colorful caps and gowns, getting ready to walk the stage. In the San Francisco Bay Area in California, seniors from Contra Costa County and Alameda County have been in shelter-in-place since March 17, with school fully transitioned into online learning. Despite the circumstances, seniors have utilized this time for self-reflection and personal growth.

“Now that we have online school, I have to constantly remind myself that life isn’t about doing things that are required of me,” Shannon Zheng, who attends Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, commented. “It’s a journey that involves being motivated every moment because life is all about self-improvement and not just checking things off of a to-do list. That sort of mindset has guided me these past few weeks.”

Anna Sun, a senior at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, had a similar perspective. “Throughout the year, it’s just been about getting good grades. Now, we’re getting tested and it’s pushing us because grades are no longer an incentive. There are lots of loopholes with online learning and opportunities to slack off. It’s become a matter of self-discipline and a desire to better yourself as a person. Are you spending your free time well? Are you getting better at something, learning a new skill? It’s made me think of what I really want to do with my time,” she said.

And indeed, the students have found unique and creative ways to utilize their skills.

Camille Partain, who attends Heritage High School in Brentwood, helped organize a virtual Earth Day art show for her city’s residents through the Brentwood Youth Commission. Edward Lu, who attends Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, participated in his school’s virtual Relay for Life event. There have been FaceTime calls, family game nights, Netflix Parties and Animal Crossing marathons.

Surprisingly, every senior said that they’ve made an effort to stay in shape, though some were slightly embarrassed to admit that daily exercise was a difficult habit to form. Some joined online fitness programs and others went on socially distant jogs. Michael Yan from KIPP King Collegiate High School in San Lorenzo, who is on his high school’s cross country team, noted that creating a set training plan has allowed him to stay fit while maintaining a semi-normal schedule.

Additionally, high school seniors have found that their time at home has led them to have a greater appreciation for things normally taken for granted.

“This time period has allowed me to appreciate the small things: hugging people, interacting one-on-one and spending time in groups,” Partain said.

Yan agreed: “I’ve realized how much I rely on in-person interactions to be social. I’ve attended some virtual birthday calls on Zoom but it’s really not the same. But it’s felt good to take a break and spend time focusing on myself.”

Sun also reflected on the pandemic’s lasting impact, saying, “When you grow up, you think the world is very advanced; we’re literally holding small computers in our hands right now. But you forget to realize that things like incurable diseases still exist. Despite all our technology, we’re still so fragile and so easily defeated by nature. I think it has humbled us.”

Taking an opposing perspective, Lu noted, “Honestly, this pandemic has made me realize how ignorant and narrow-minded a lot of people still are, even after all of the pain this has caused. This should be the prime time to focus on yourself and becoming a better person.”

All the seniors seemed to still be in good spirits, even when many of them were unsure what their first semester in college will look like in the fall.

“These past couple months have allowed me to try new things and be more independent, which is a good glimpse into the future for college,” said Partain. She will be attending San Diego State University to study kinesiology. “I’ll be in pre-physical therapy where in-person interactions are especially important. I’m a people person and I’ve missed being social, so these circumstances make me appreciate that field of work even more.”

Similarly, Zheng will be attending the University of Pennsylvania and hopes to study biological science. “When I read about the coronavirus in the news, it piques my interest to dive deep into that area of research. It’s incredibly relevant and I would love to do research on infectious diseases and contribute to finding preventative measures.”

Nevertheless, the seniors are undoubtedly frustrated right now, and many are facing insurmountable challenges due to COVID-19. However, almost remarkably, they’ve still managed to find the ever-mentioned “silver linings” during this turbulent time: new perspectives, skills, and connections are being formed in order for the Class of 2020 to emerge much stronger on the other side of this pandemic.

Shannon Zheng relaxes in her backyard to get fresh air.











Edward Lu enjoys an episode of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”







Camille Partain and her family spend time together playing card games.











Anna Sun sports her graduation cap and gown.












In the absence of a candle, Michael Yan uses a lighter to celebrate a friend’s birthday on Zoom.