Seniors prepare for a somewhat normal graduation

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. - The big moment is here for many Michiana high school seniors - graduation! Many seniors eagerly wait to throw their caps in the air, but what’s next after graduation and has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their decisions?

The last day of school is just around the corner

"So this week is actually our last week in school, it’s my last Monday ever of high school," Maurissa Lagrow, a senior at Coloma Schools said.

And graduation is almost here.

"We graduate next Friday on the 28th of May," she said.

"We're graduating in just a few weeks June 6th. The magical day, finally get our diploma," Karenna Sohn a senior a St. Joseph High School in Michigan said.

Seniors, Maurissa, Kareena, and Emilee may go to different schools but the excitement is all the same, especially after a year of up and downs.

“I’ve had to definitely push through it and get past the obstacles, online learning personally is not my favorite," Lagrow said.

"It's been definitely different, a little bit inconsistent but you know we have just tried to make the best of that," Sohn said.

These seniors are hoping for their walk on the podium to be their final step in the right direction.

“13 years of your life goes to learning and getting your diploma and just, I don't know, just having that celebration with your friends sitting next to you, and walking across that stage is a really big milestone, good to seeing your family, cry, I already know I will cry," Emilee Kelly another senior at St. Joe said.

This year's celebration for many will be held on a field rather than inside a car like what we saw last year, or inside a school gym during the pre-pandemic days.

"We get to graduate on the football field this year, which we haven't done and I think five years," Lagrow said. "Usually, it would be in our gym.”

Tana: Last year, what did graduation look like?

"Graduation was a car graduation," she said. "So they set it up very nicely. It was a big screen where they were live streaming for people who couldn't attend and then the cars would line up and there'd be a certain amount of people allowed in a car or just fit as many as you could in the car and then they would just line up as if it were chairs just cars instead.”

"Last year this time we didn't know what graduation would look like or graduation won't even happen," Greg Blomgren, the principal at St. Joseph High School said.

Although last year's drive-through graduation had its special quirks, Blomgren, said this year's celebration should look more normal.

"It'll look very similar to years past, it's just there won't be quite as many people there," Blomgren said. "So right now we're at capacity limit with our stadium at an outdoor venue is 1000 people. We have 250 graduates so it's a great number so every student and their family will get four tickets.”

"Although they do look different, it's still, we don't really know any better, because we haven't had normal in a while so everything coming back to us like the prom felt so normal and like it's feeling like life is going back," Kelly said.

"Those seniors who went through and graduated in the class of 2020 missed out on so many end-of-year activities the traditions of what k through 12 education is and kind of the finalization of that. I think the students this year and the parents are accepting of anything and everything that we can do to try to give them that," Blomgren said.

And as these seniors consider college, is the 4-year experience worth the high price tag for them if schools shut down and go virtual again?

"Yeah, that was, that was a conversation that did come up with my family and I, and that was very challenging," Lagrow said.

"A lot of other students that I've talked to this year said they were going to kind of before committing to a college, wait it out and see what next year was gonna look like for the school a lot of the colleges that I applied to have been sending emails, letting us know what's going to happen next year,” Sohn said. "And luckily most of those colleges did say they're going to be returning in person so if it was online it might have been a different story for me you know, to save some money, maybe try going to community college for a year."

Both high school principals at Coloma and St. Joe tell ABC57 their graduation rate is nearly the same. We will dive into that this Thursday on The Learning Curve.

Any questions? Reach out to us at learningcurve@abc57.com.

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