For me, the spring semester of my senior year of high school was one of the best times of my life. I’d already been accepted to college, my parents had given me more freedom to hang out with friends, and I had the whole summer ahead of me before I began the next chapter.
Obviously, things are a lot different for the class of 2020. Schools in New York and across the country have been closed for the remainder of the year, effectively canceling most seniors’ milestones. Students aren’t supposed to be seeing friends, and it’s unclear how long social distancing measures will be in effect. Seniors are even having to fathom a first semester of college, historically one of blissful freedom, done virtually from their childhood bedroom in Mom and Dad’s house.
While the COVID-19 crisis is unquestionably a major bummer for high school seniors everywhere, the Bethlehem Central High School (BCHS) senior class haven’t allowed themselves to be bummed out. Back in April, the BCHS senior class and student senate released a video they’d made with this message: Instead of worrying about them, celebrate them by donating blood to the American Red Cross at a May 27 blood drive at the high school, a yearly Bethlehem senior tradition that became especially inspiring this year thanks to the moving video.
I recently sat down with two of the students behind the “Donate to Celebrate” video, Bethlehem seniors Nick Zigrosser and Kiersten Murray, to see what life has been like for them these past few months. Their attitude is summed up by Kiersten’s line in the video: “At school and at home, we’ve always been taught to care for others. It’s what Bethlehem is about. So, don’t feel sorry for us. We are grateful for all we have and all we’ve been given.”
When did you first realize you weren’t going back to school to finish your
Kiersten: It was kind of a gradual thing. I still had hope for a while, but then on that Friday when [we heard that schools wouldn’t reopen], it became real that we weren’t going back.
Nick: We’d see the news and that the numbers of hospitalizations weren’t going down, and it just became more apparent that we probably weren’t going back. A lot of people were upset when New York State canceled school—that was a very sad day in our town.
What’s the worst part about having your high school career cut short?
Kiersten:Definitely. And sports being canceled for our senior season.
Nick: For me, it’s not seeing everybody in school; not seeing all the teachers.
Do you know what your graduation is going to be like?
Kiersten: They sent out an email asking for students’ feedback and what we think would be best. They have a few options in the running. One is to just do it virtually. One is to have us drive up to the school, take a picture—that kind of thing. And then one is to use the drive-in in our town to project
Nick: They also said they reserved the Times Union Center for August 7, if the social distancing stuff clears up.
You’re both going to college in the fall. What do you think about the possibility of having a remote first semester?
Kiersten: It’s definitely going to be weird, but we don’t know what college is like yet, so it’s not gonna be too hard compared to returning kids who already got their second semester cut short.
Nick: A lot of my friends are wanting to take a gap year, because they don’t want their first semester to be online. But they also can’t really travel during their gap year…
So how did the “Donate to Celebrate” video come about?
Nick: Each year, student senate hosts a blood drive, and we were working with our principal to figure out a way to promote the blood drive and also honor the seniors. So, we came up with the idea for the video and just went from there.
Why does Bethlehem partner with the Red Cross every year?
Kiersten: Blood is a very important thing that they usually don’t have enough of, so any blood drive is good. But especially at this time, hosting a blood drive and getting it out there that we’re having it is one of the only things we can really do to make an impact and help out.