Why We Should Be Thankful For Our Split Graduation

By Alli Lipsit, News Editor

As a high school senior graduating during the pandemic and having been out of school for over a year now, I can say without a doubt that this year has sucked.

Classes have been really hard, especially online, and it’s been hard to bond with my teachers and classmates via Zoom, the way I used to when we were in person. It was also really hard to see people my age out partying and having fun while I sat at home all day. Not only did this show me just how selfish our generation can be, but it also just made me feel super jealous, as my friends and I wanted to have fun too, but we were abiding by social distancing and mask-wearing regulations.

But, I get a prom! I get a graduation too, and I’ll get to work my job in the summer and go to in-person classes for my first year of college. These are all privileges the class of 2020 never got. These are also privileges that the five hundred and eighty-seven thousand victims of COVID-19 in America alone will never get to experience. They won’t get to go to prom themselves, or take pictures of their children and their dates at prom. Many of them will never get to work a new summer job they were excited for, or graduate from high school or college, or see their children graduate.

So, at the end of the day, there’s not much I can complain about. The pandemic affected everyone in different ways. I was lucky enough to evade COVID-19, and most of my family was too. I’m happy I stayed safe, and the people around me did as well. That’s all that matters to me during such a monumentally detrimental health crisis.

The way I see it, we can either complain about the little things in life we lost this year or be grateful for the big things (people) we didn’t lose in life this year.

When I see the kids my age complain nonstop about how we may not be able to dance at prom or how graduation is going to be split into two ceremonies and whine about how horrible this year has been, it makes me very upset.

And trust me, that’s not to say I haven’t complained, because I definitely have. The big difference is that I’ve actually done my part in trying to stop the spread. I stayed home when I was supposed to and wore my mask when around pretty much anyone outside of my circle, up until I was fully vaccinated. At this point in the pandemic, it’s time to look at the glass half full instead of empty. We get a graduation AND a prom. Class of 2020 got neither!

A petition was started recently calling for Niles West to have one full graduation instead of two separate ones. The petitions reads, “The issue is our entire grade wants to graduate together, and our graduation is being held outside already with masks ON! Other schools in the conference can graduate together. If this can’t be achieved, you won’t be seeing any of the students there due to the frustration & chaos that the administration has caused!”

I have several problems with this petition.

One problem I have with this petition is the attitude towards the Niles West administration. This is as new to them as it is to us, and they’ve done everything in their power to give us a SAFE (emphasis on the word safe) end to our senior year. They’ve organized several socially distanced outdoor events for seniors to say goodbye to each other and celebrate this milestone during such a difficult year. A group of 17-18-year-olds who have not participated in stopping the spread should not be criticizing them.

The petition mentions that “if this can’t be achieved, Niles West won’t be seeing any of the students there due to the frustration & chaos that the administration has caused.” This is false, and I’m not sure who decided this on behalf of the whole grade. I’d like to thank the administration on behalf of all those that are still interested in staying safe during an ongoing pandemic for all they have done to give us a fun end to our year without risking the safety of us or those around us. Had the administration decided to do a joint graduation, with all 639 seniors, their two guests, and the faculty members all crowded onto the football field, I can guarantee a lot fewer people would have shown up due to feelings of apprehension surrounding safety precautions.

Shame on any other high school that is combining large groups of kids and parents for a graduation ceremony or a prom onto a small football field, but it’s also important to remember a lot of schools surrounding West are actually splitting up their graduation as well, like ETHS, GBS, GBN, and Mundelein. If they’re not, it’s because they rented out large stadiums like Soldier Field (New Trier and Lane Tech) to be able to safely have a large graduation. Or, they have a smaller number of students. For example, Latin has 120 students, so they’re doing one full ceremony for graduation. If the Change.org petition would like to advertise that and raise funds to have a graduation in a bigger area so we can all attend, I think there would be a lot more attention surrounding it than the 191 people who signed the petition. That’s a cause I can get behind!

I would rather dance in my seat under my tent with a couple of friends at prom and take pictures before the graduation ceremony with my friends who won’t be attending the same one as me than risk spreading COVID-19 to anyone.

But I guess not everyone else sees it that way.

Lastly, I’ve heard a lot of seniors saying we got the short end of the stick.

I empathize with you all; I really do because I know how it feels. But we did not get the short end of the stick. The five hundred eighty-seven thousand people who died and all those that loved them got the short end of the stick.

Let’s keep that in mind when we feel like bashing the school’s safety precautions during a worldwide pandemic.