BEAR RIVER HIGH – By Cari Doutre – April 20, 2020
The graduating class of 2020 at Bear River High will forever be known as the class that didn’t graduate – at a traditional commencement ceremony that is.
Seniors at Bear River High School will still technically graduate, but the last two and half months of their high school careers have been, and will be, anything but typical.
Most of these students won’t set foot in their high school again. Many will never see their teachers face to face again. But for all of these high school seniors, they are left with a great feeling of sadness and disappointment caused by a world-wide pandemic they had no control over.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert announced on April 14, 2020 that all public schools in the state will remain dismissed, or under a soft closure, for the remaining 2019-20 school year. This decision was made to protect the residents of Utah from further deaths and illness caused by COVID-19, or coronavirus, a world-wide pandemic.
Disappointment may be an understatement when describing some of the feelings and emotions high school students at Bear River High are currently experiencing, but the news wasn’t necessarily a surprise to some of them.
“It wasn’t unexpected, but it still hit me as if it were. I, and I’m sure the rest of the senior class, feel robbed of everything, we’ve worked for,” said Mattie Mecham, a senior at Bear River High.
“When the announcement was made, I felt resigned at first. I had seen this coming, after all,” admitted Ellis Laker, also a senior. It still didn’t make the disappointment go away.
“My amazing senior year got cut short and there’s no way to go back and redo it or fix it,” Laker added.
It is those final high school experiences and memories that were to be made that are difficult for these students to accept – none of it is going to happen, at least not how they thought it would.
“I’m sad I will never get to have my last dance in high school. I’m sad I won’t be able to throw my cap among my close friends that I have grown up with. I wish I could have just one more night to party it up with my peers before we go our separate ways. These last few months of senior year (from what I hear) are supposed to be the best moments in high school,” said Ethan Chournos, Bear River High’s Student Body President.
“When I heard that we weren’t going back to school, I instantly started thinking about graduation. This year was supposed to be memorable for all of us seniors. We have made so many memories together as a class and I wanted to have a proper ending to it all,” added Bear River High’s Senior Class President, Andre Archibald.
Administrators at Bear River High have not announced what will happen next as far as a graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 – but they are working hard to find a solution that best fits the students’ needs as well as the restrictions currently in place because of COVID-19 concerns.
Teachers, staff and administrators at Bear River High are also feeling the pain and disappointment for these students.
“Ending your high school career is something to be enjoyed and celebrated but this pandemic has robbed the class of 2020 of this culminating experience,” said Katie Stapley, a teacher at Bear River High.
Spending the last month at home distance learning online, some students are finding the joy in that opportunity itself.
“I’ve been spending this time to do things that I didn’t realize I’d been missing. Stuff like spending time with my family and playing music,” said Bear River High senior Jacob Kropf.
The students that make up the class of 2020 is already starting to show signs of healing and resilience.
“I’m really bummed about the whole deal but feel like I definitely lived up my senior year the best that I could. I’m just going to try and stay positive about it and make the best of it and keep making memories that I can with my friends,” said Makensy Thompson.
“I’m mostly just overwhelmingly grateful for the year I’ve had, the experiences I’ve had and the memories I’ve made,” added Mecham.
That positive attitude and optimism is strong with these students.
“Despite getting all of this snatched away from us, I want to give hope to the student body at Bear River. The student council are trying to come up with ideas to help bring morale up. We are determined to rise up in these times of uncertainty and fear and make the most of our graduating year, even though it’s been unceremoniously cut short,” said Chournos.
“If any class could endure this, it would be the class of 2020,” added Archibald.
Wise beyond their years and enduring a time in history that will forever be with them, this doesn’t mean those students will let the COVID-19 pandemic or this experience define them.
“If we just let our last year of high school run off without us because of something that is out of our control, we’ll regret it. We can still have an amazing senior year. We’ve just got to pull ourselves together and put in the effort to make it happen and find joy in everything we do,” said Kropf.
“While it may not offer much comfort now, I hope this group of students knows that this shared experience can be something to rise above and it will make them all the more resilient,” said Stapley.
"We love our students, miss our students and want to do all we can to recognize the accomplishments and tenacity of our seniors to battle through this and rise about this," said Bear River High Principal A.J. Gilmore.
“We are proud of this group and believe they are destined to do great things. They have been put in a very hard situation and they have responded with kindness, grace and determination,” added Clay Chournos, Vice Principal at Bear River High.