For the nervous seniors gathered in the middle of the Powell High School gym, wearing uncomfortable graduation robes, it’s a short journey from their seats on the gym floor to where Principal …
For the nervous seniors gathered in the middle of the Powell High School gym, wearing uncomfortable graduation robes, it’s a short journey from their seats on the gym floor to where Principal Tim Wormald awards diplomas every year. But when each student stood on the podium May 21, they finished a journey that no other graduating class has experienced.
“I think some of the kids really did come together and kind of lean on each other, they had experienced something that nobody had ever experienced before them,” Wormald said. “A lot of them were quarantined at different times, a lot of them had COVID-19 themselves and so I think that experience helped them bond. So I do think that they are a close class, I think they’ve kind of stuck by each other and they’ve supported each other quite a bit.”
Katie Beavers thought the transition from in-person classes to online school and then back to in-person classes positively strengthened the bond of the class and pushed them more as individuals.
In 2019, the freshmen entered Powell High School for the first time. Many of them were probably nervous, but decades of students before them had successfully come and gone — they were following a well-worn path to graduation.
The path of 2023’s high school class was rerouted just one semester into their freshman year when the Covid pandemic forced many businesses and schools to close or fundamentally alter the way they operate. They now had to clear their own trail as they went along.
“I wasn’t really prepared for Covid and happy to go on to online school … when we got back, it was nice to be free again,” Grace Sapp said. “And as much as you hate going to school in the morning, after we were able to come back in person. I was like ‘man, I never want to go back to online again.’”
Grace Coombs was aware that her class did not have the experience of witnessing senior traditions prior to their own graduation.
“I feel like we didn’t get to see the big senior traditions as freshmen. And I feel like that kind of impacted how important we view those end of the year traditions as seniors,” Grace Coombs said.
She added that for her and some other students the graduation does not have any more significance than it has had for past classes.
“I was talking to some of some other kids earlier and they were saying, ‘I don’t understand why graduation is such a big deal. You know, everyone does it.”
For some students, their unconventional high school years had an impact, both the challenges and the good times.
“It’s kind of weird because like, I left this school and came back. I left at the peak of Covid,” Terry Durham said. “And then I went to another school where they were at the peak of Covid, most of my schooling in high school was just online classes.”
Durham said that because of his experience during the Covid pandemic he lost interest in topics he once found interesting, like robotics.
But Durham isn’t closing the door on continuing to educate himself about robotics, “It might happen, it might not, we’ll see if it’s in the cards for me.”
Beavers remembered returning to school and being concerned about making it to in-person classes on time. When students were allowed to return to school during the Covid pandemic students had to walk on certain sides of the hall.
“Attendance was a big thing for me. I was like, ‘I don’t want to be late. I don’t want to miss my classes,’” Katie Beavers said. “Especially on the first week because I was like, ‘I don’t want to miss when they’re talking about what the class is gonna be about.’”
Beavers said that catching up on coursework was not as hard as she had anticipated but she did have to “buckle down” and set goals. If her freshman year was normal she said she wouldn’t have been as urgent in setting goals.
“I don’t think I would have been as worried about it, because I would have had that whole second semester freshman year to kind of focus on that, but I still think I would have been the same way,” Beavers said.
When she left Powell High School on Sunday, Beavers graduated as an honors student and FFA president.
All 135 students who started the year at Powell High School as seniors walked out as graduates on Sunday, despite all the changes thrown their way in four years. As their class song “Night Changes” by One Direction goes, “Does it ever drive you crazy just how fast the night changes?”