Amid pandemic, Summit High School seniors celebrate college acceptance, graduation virtually |

Amid pandemic, Summit High School seniors celebrate college acceptance, graduation virtually

Summit High School seniors Jessica Fernandez De La O and Crystal Martinzez-Lopez celebrate their graduation outdoors.
Courtesy Kyla Rys

FRISCO — Despite the end of in-person learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Summit High School Class of 2020 is taking to social media to celebrate its academic accomplishments and future plans. 

Seniors made an Instagram page to celebrate those graduating and their collegiate or professional goals.

While searching social media for a college roommate, senior Hunter Stimson noticed a trend of graduating seniors across the country announcing their post-high school plans virtually. She began the local Instagram page to establish a sense of normalcy since her class will not get to celebrate in-person graduation traditions.

“Our class is optimistic in general, and we usually look on the bright side of things,” said Stimson, who plans to study kinesiology, or the mechanics of body movement, at Michigan State University this fall. “At first, we were kind of bummed, but then we began to come up with creative ways to stay together and make this more normal.”

Since the creation of the @summit_hs_seniors page, about 125 Summit seniors have submitted a picture and announcement of their future educational or professional goals.

“Everyone just wants to send in their information and be loved and love each other by celebrating our accomplishments,” Stimson said.

Senior Ethan Long said the social media campaign allows him to remain connected to his classmates.

“The stuff that my class has been doing online and with social media has made it a lot easier,” Long said. “I haven’t felt as negatively about not having an in-person graduation.”

Long, who plans to study creative writing at Colorado State University this fall, said he has been encouraged by the virtual communication between his peers.

“I have been surprised and impressed with our class on how much we have been willing to connect and stay together and care about each other’s future plans,” Long said.

In addition to social media pages, Summit High is organizing a virtual graduation for May 23, the day seniors were supposed to graduate with an in-person celebration. The Summit High School Parent Teacher Student Organization has been delivering yard signs to graduating students, and the school organized a livestreamed DJ for the student’s prom.

Summit High School student Jeremiah Vaille rides his bike around Frisco to celebrate the graduating Class of 2020.
Photo by Kendal Vaille

Senior Logan Simson explained that graduation cap and gown company Herff Jones is partnering with businesses and schools to create an online slideshow to celebrate graduating students. Simson plans to go to the University of Denver in the fall and is currently undecided on a major.

“We can type out our names, a video of us wearing our caps and gowns and personal messages, which everyone can see on the 23rd,” Simson said. “We can also send the video to our friends and family. You can say what your plans are and who you want to thank.”

While Simson is grateful for the ways her class is celebrating online, she is sad that her final in-person semester was cut short.

“Throughout high school and even your childhood, school is a constant in your life,” she said. “It’s odd that the last part is just kind of finished.”

“I have always waited for the moment in high school where the seniors come to the school in their PJs and heels to practice for graduation,” Simson said. “I have always looked forward to that. It is not the same with a slideshow replacing all of that.”

While she’s disappointed that she cannot be physically present at graduation, Simson is still optimistic about the creative ways her class is celebrating. Some seniors are developing plans for students to sign up for different time slots to walk across the school’s turf field. Students are also organizing a car parade to celebrate their graduating class. 

“I really appreciate the community coming together right now and giving thought to the seniors,” Simson added. 

Teachers struggling, too

The abrupt end to the in-person school year not only impacts students but also their teachers, coaches and administrators. Jotwan Daniels, a social studies teacher and coach of the Summit girl’s soccer team, misses teaching his students in person. 

“I miss the contact,” Daniels said. “Seeing them, teaching them … you cannot re-create that from a livestream.”

After 15 years of teaching and coaching, Daniels will miss watching the senior class graduate in-person.

“This will be the first time I miss graduation as a high school teacher,” Daniels said. “That is the end product of what we do as educators, so I will miss that.”

Despite the challenges of virtual learning, Daniels offers a message of love to his students.

“We as teachers do what we do, and we go through what we go through, on a daily basis for one reason and one reason only: It is because we love our students,” Daniels added. 

While seniors can’t experience an in-person graduation, Daniels encourages them to keep a positive mindset and connect with others.

“We’ve got to focus on controlling the controllables,” Daniels said. “How we handle these moments is what we have control over. Our effort, our attitude, our passion — those are the things we focus on.”

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