MINT HILL, NC – The last four years have posed many challenges for the Class of 2022, a group of young adults who were barely starting their second year in high school when COVID abruptly and indefinitely altered the world as we knew it. Nevertheless, these students rose to meet all the challenges life threw their way and emerged victorious: grateful for the little things, clear on their passion and purpose, and prepared to meet whatever the future holds.
For Grettel Gomez Reyes, a senior at Queens Grant High School, one of her favorite memories was getting to interact with her peers again after the two-year disruption of COVID. “Being in quarantine, it wasn’t the same making friends,” she says, “but now, I get to enjoy learning and laughing in the classroom. I also enjoyed all the events our Senior Counselor helped to arrange, and getting to know my teachers on a friendlier level created a smoother transition to relearning subjects that didn’t latch on during COVID.”
One hallmark of this year has been the return of traditional school events that had been canceled or markedly altered for the past two years due to social distancing restrictions. Independence High School Senior Tamia Burgess was glad to return to team sports and other in-person events this year. “Some of my favorite memories of senior year were prom, being able to play my senior basketball and soccer seasons, ‘Throwback Thursday’ and our student versus staff basketball game,” she explains.
This year’s graduating classes were the first since 2019 to enjoy a fairly normal senior year; nevertheless, two years of virtual learning and other COVID-related restrictions had a big impact on these graduates’ time in high school. “COVID affected my high school experience overall by it take away most of my sophomore year and all of my junior,” says Tamia. “I had to learn to adapt in order to do online learning.”
The affects of COVID lingered as the Class of ‘22 began their last year in high school. “Throughout my senior year, COVID was still affecting the people around me, so we wore masks,” says Tamia. “At the beginning of the year, COVID made it really difficult to feel comfortable touching the desks, pencils, and being anywhere near items other students had touched,” adds Grettel. “There was a constant worry between my peers and I that the virus could spike again and we would return to virtual.”
Despite continued precautions like mask-wearing, Tamia and Grettel were grateful to return to school this year. “On a daily basis, I’m glad I got to be at school for my last year of high school,” says Grettel. “Wearing a mask to school was never a bother, and overall I’m extremely glad I got to socialize once more and make new friends.”
Ultimately, two years of COVID taught Tamia and Grettel to always look for the silver lining. “I made sure to cherish every moment I had during senior year because the Class of ‘21 and ‘20 were not able to have moments like prom,” says Tamia. “As everything is online now, my college application process was much easier,” adds Grettel, “and communication between counselors and other advisers were far smoother.”
Although this year’s seniors were elated to return to the classroom, adjusting back to a normal schedule was challenging. “The biggest challenges of senior year were adapting back to in person learning and not letting ‘senioritis’ and procrastination take over,” says Tamia. “Even though I had a great year being in person, the college application process and time management became a struggle,” adds Grettel. “During COVID, everything revolved around my agenda, but now I had to consider the schedules of my teachers and deadlines I had to meet.”
In spite of – or perhaps in part because of – the challenges they confronted, this year’s seniors will move on to pursue big dreams. Tamia will attend North Carolina State University next year and plans to major in Biomedical Engineering. Grettel received TheDream.Us Scholarship, which provides her with a full ride to Dominican University. “I will be going into their Pre-Law Program and hope to one day work with Human Trafficking, specifically child exploitation,” she explains.
For next year’s seniors, Grettel emphasizes the importance of patience, of staying the course through what can often seem the impossibly difficult task of applying to college and securing scholarships. “It becomes difficult when you get rejected or do not receive the desired outcome based off of your experience and academic standing,” says Grettel, who was notified about her Opportunity Scholarship in March. “As you are submitting all these applications, always remember that your value is not determined by a number. Everything comes at its own time. If you are willing to work hard enough, use your time, and apply to anywhere and to everything, you can achieve anything.”
Like Grettel, Tamia encourages next year’s seniors to remain focused on their academics and their goals, but to not forget to have fun in the process. “I would tell them to cherish the moments because it goes by fast!” she says. “But also to stay focused and get your work done!”
Congratulations, Class of 2022!