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Bethel Regional High School Class of 2022 reflects on how the pandemic shaped their high school experience

Saturday, May 21, was graduation day for the Bethel Regional High School Class of 2022. Thirty-five students received diplomas this year, overcoming distance learning, a pandemic, and “senioritis” to become high school graduates.

This year’s seniors had a unique high school experience: they left school as sophomores in March of 2020 and did not return to their classrooms for almost a year. Despite missing out on some of what high school has to offer, graduating senior Haley Sundown said that distance learning had a silver lining.

“I think it really allowed us to, like, explore other options. Like, I enjoyed getting other jobs and stuff like that,” Sundown said. “But I'm actually really glad that it affected me the way it did.”

Fellow senior Charles Smith echoed Sundown’s sentiments, crediting his time in online school with preparing him for college. “It gave me a lot more time to work and grow into an adult, pretty much, while having school on the side as well. So it's a pretty good experience setting me up for college, I think.”

But for other students, like Timothy Thompson, being away from the classroom wasn’t always easy. “The pandemic stunted my ability to focus. But, I mean, I made it through.”

Ava Lieb echoed Thompson’s sentiments, remembering how unmotivated she felt while learning at home.“[Distance learning] was pretty difficult to keep us motivated to do our work by ourselves. And so transitioning back into school, I think our motivation kind of was like, it wasn't there like it was before. So that was kind of hard.”

Students recognized the hardships that being a student during the pandemic brought, but they also said that their situation brought them closer together. “When we came back it kind of also, kind of, like, bonded us together because we hadn't seen each other for so long,” Peter Crow said. “So it kind of made senior year, like, more enjoyable because we were all around each other again.”

The class of 2022 is looking forward to the future, but they will also cherish their time in high school, especially sports.

“I'm definitely gonna bring my sports memories along with me,” Lieb said.

“Playing basketball in the Warrior Dome,” Crow said. “That'll be what I missed the most for sure.”

Sundown’s favorite memories? Traveling for sports: “Our sports trips, those were all my favorite memories.”

Smith said that he’ll also bring his sports traveling with him next year. “Pretty much all the sports trips, I mean, I've been with those guys my whole high school, junior high career. I'll remember all the trips we had together.”

As the class of 2022 prepares for their next chapters, BRHS principal Alicia Miner told the seniors that they would be remembered for the adversities they faced, and the precedent that they set for underclassmen.

“Thank you for making this year a lot of fun, memorable. When I look back on this year, we'll certainly remember the fun and perseverance that the Class of 2022 has to offer,” Miner said. "Good luck Class of 2022 in all that you do. You have shown us that this is just the beginning.”

Elyssa (she/her) is the Wellness Programming Producer and a second year Jesuit Volunteer/Americorps Member at KYUK. She loves dogs, listening to podcasts and playing ABBA to close out the Birthday Line.
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