By Noelle Salisbury

“It’s not fair.”

I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot lately.

It’s not fair that the talent show, spring sports, post-secondary celebrations, Ivy Day, Prom, Senior Week, and the graduation of the Class of 2020 are no longer to take place – at least not how we expected them to. Incredible, to think that every class since 1942 has had this sequence of celebration and now, at the commencement of a new decade, our school is so completely shaken from any semblance of sequence. It is entirely unfair … but now what?

I am – am I? – a senior at East Greenwich High School. Admittedly, during my high school years, I’ve been shy. I tried not to make any enemies, I bonded with a small group of friends, and I stuck to the activity that made me feel the most comfortable: drama club. For four years, I worked quietly to keep my grades up and develop my interest in theater, a passion that I’m now pursuing in the form of a college degree. Like my fellow classmates, I worked very hard to get where I am now, and although each of us had a different goal to work towards, we knew we were pushing through high school for something. We upheld the legacy that East Greenwich High School has maintained for seven decades.

But we leave the halls of our high school differently. Change is difficult, especially since we’ve anticipated how the spring of 2020 should be for four years. Some of us have watched siblings transition and leave, some have said goodbye to upperclassmen teammates, some have cried as their senior friends took their last bow on stage. We have seen first hand how impactful a class and their parting can be. To be forced into something different leaves my class community upset.

Some say, “Get over it! There are bigger problems, we are in a global pandemic!” Some are keen to ignore our new restrictions, blindly believing their social impact is, in fact, not an impact. Some are willing to let it go as just another disappointment. Some, like me, are mentally bargaining: “If I can’t have my senior year, can I at least start college in the fall?” All of these reactions are valid; there’s no right way to grieve the loss of an expectation. However, despite the varying responses, I’ve seen one common reflex among my peers: blame – spite, anger, and hopelessness. 

It isn’t fair, but who can we blame for that? Our federal government? Our local government? Those who throw caution to the wind, those who are too cautious? Our school, our families? The truth is, although we all deserve to be angry and upset, there is no good reason why the Class of 2020 will have an unorthodox departure. There was no way for us to know that the “2020” added after our names in the school-provided emails we’ve had since childhood would bring us COVID-19. There was no way for us to know that we were saying goodbye, as early as March, to the walls that contained us for four years. 

Many questions hang in the air for the class of 2020. Will I get to say goodbye to my friends and honor the people that educated me? Will we celebrate prom, or will it be another Zoom call? Will we officially graduate, or will I be emailed a PDF of my diploma? These questions have yet to be answered as decisions are being made carefully, slowly, and deliberately. I ask on behalf of the community to be patient and gentle with your seniors. Amid this quasi-apocalypse, leaving high school unresolved might seem like a minor concern, but we have a right to mourn it. We will be upset, we will be angry, but we will get beyond it. If there’s anything this pandemic has amplified for our civilization, it’s that small moments hold greater meaning than they sometimes appear to. So, we will appreciate what small moments we get and look forward to however we can celebrate the great achievement of completing high school. 

Congratulations to all my fellow seniors on four years of effort. Our work does not go unnoticed.

Noelle Salisbury will study theater at Emerson College in September.