Community Education

Class of 2022: ‘There’s no time to waste’ after pandemic’s disruptions

Posted on June 16th, 2022 By:

The Class of 2022 has lived the arc of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They began with a normal freshman year. In spring of their sophomore year, schools shut down and learning went entirely online, a benefit to some but a challenge for so many students who struggled with social isolation.

High school students across the country experienced anxiety over the impact of COVID-19 on their families. Many took on additional responsibilities for siblings at home while parents worked. Some took extra jobs to fill the gaps in family income.

As juniors, they saw a return to in-person learning after a fashion, with hybrid schedules (part-time online) and a raft of precautions — including masks and curtailed extracurricular activities — to prevent spread of the disease.

Their senior year began with a return to full-time, in-person classes — with added precautions like “Test to Stay” for students exposed — while globally, the delta and omicron variants kept COVID-19 at the forefront in considerations related to school, work and leisure activities.

Covid and the Class of 2022

As members of the Class of 2022 prepare to embark on their post-secondary plans, Gig Harbor Now asked student leaders to reflect on the following:

“How would you personally say the pandemic has impacted you and your peers? How, if at all, has it changed you and your paths into the future?”

Their answers show grit and flexibility in the midst of unprecedented challenges. As the pandemic upended their education, it also gave them pause to consider future pathways outside the boundaries of norms they thought they’d follow.

Graduation ceremonies for Gig Harbor High School (10 a.m.) and Peninsula High School (1:30 p.m.) will take place Saturday at the Tacoma Dome. Henderson Bay High School will hold its graduation at 6 p.m. Friday at Sehmel Homestead Park.

Congratulations to all and best of luck in the future.

Alex Morgan, Gig Harbor High School

Alex was selected to give the address to faculty at graduation.

“Overall, the pandemic has required that we all become more accountable for our own education. Especially last year during Zoom, there were few strict deadlines so it was easy to let late assignments pile up.

“However, this additional responsibility allowed all of us to exercise more freedom in our education. For example, students could attend school while on a family vacation for the first time ever. Personally, I was able to explore untraditional learning pathways.

Alex Morgan

“I believe that losing so many opportunities during high school has substantially reduced how much students take for granted. I’ve found that every new adventure is much more exciting, and for that reason I’ve made this final year of high school the busiest of my life; there’s no time to waste.” — Alex Morgan Contributed

“At the beginning of my junior year when everything was over Zoom, I explored an independent study of physics with the help of Mr. (Eric) Wolgemuth. Additionally, I was able to attend college math classes on the other side of Washington for free through a virtual running start program. Both of these opportunities were actually easier to accomplish in a year of isolation, and I probably would not have pushed myself to do them if it were a regular year of school.

“Importantly, I believe that losing so many opportunities during high school has substantially reduced how much students take for granted. I’ve found that every new adventure is much more exciting, and for that reason I’ve made this final year of high school the busiest of my life; there’s no time to waste.” 

Immashiya Tanko, Gig Harbor High School

Immashiya was selected to give the address to families at graduation.

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“Personally, the pandemic has impacted me and my peers both negatively and positively. 

“In the negative sense, I had to move across the country in the middle of the pandemic to start a new school and meet new people. The pandemic ultimately threw away the plans I had for my junior and senior year. I had to adapt and rewrite my goals and achievements which was not easy to do. It made learning more difficult sitting in front of a screen all day. We all had to adapt to the situation in different ways and forms.

“On a more positive note, I feel like the pandemic has opened a lot of new doors and opportunities for me and my peers. We were able to find new ways to come outside of our comfort zones and experience new beginnings. 

Immashiya Tanko

The pandemic taught me how to take life one day at a time and not to rush things too quickly. But it also taught me to push myself into new challenges and see where they take me.” — Immashiya Tanko Contributed

“Never did I think I would be speaking at my high school graduation, but I was handed a new opportunity that lasts a lifetime. A quote that I used in my commencement speech was: “Life is about the journey; not the destination.” It really describes what we went through and how far our class has come.

“The pandemic gave me time to think about what I wanted to do later in the future. At the very least, I researched four different fields of studies that I would like to do. A lot of my peers are starting off small, with knocking out the required freshman classes and then finding out what to do next. It changed my perspective on life.

The pandemic taught me how to take life one day at a time and not to rush things too quickly. But it also taught me to push myself into new challenges and see where they take me.”

Gene Paul, Henderson Bay High School

Gene was selected as the student speaker for graduation at Henderson Bay, the district’s alternative high school.

“For my entire life I’ve been convinced that I’d never go to college, no one in my family has. But the teachers and staff at Henderson Bay have really motivated me and inspired me to try, which would have never happened if I never went here, which would have never happened if the pandemic didn’t start.

Gene Paul

“The pandemic was and is awful. It has been the worst moment in much of our lives, but through a weird series of events, it’s the reason I’m going to college.” — Gene Paul Contributed

“I’m a super senior so when the pandemic started, I was a junior. I felt … strange. The school I was at paused our grades, so I just stopped going. It wasn’t until next year that I really went to online school. Because I didn’t really go to online school in my junior year, my senior year it just felt like a continuation of the last rather than a whole new thing. Due to this and the fact online school just wasn’t the best thing for me, I dropped out in early June. 

“In October my mom convinced me to go back to school in person at Henderson Bay and I reluctantly agreed. Because I did, I am now going to graduate, and I am going to go to college which I never thought would happen

The pandemic was and is awful. It has been the worst moment in much of our lives, but through a weird series of events, it’s the reason I’m going to college.

“I don’t know what I’m going to say at our graduation yet. I’m an avid procrastinator,” Gene wrote earlier this month. “But I want it to be something that will be remembered, something to inspire everyone there, something to show everyone how much I love them. That’s a lot of stuff for a two-minute speech, but it’s something I’m gonna try to do!”

Annalis Parker, Peninsula High School

Annalis is the school president and student representative to the school board.

“As the class of 2022’s graduation day draws closer and closer, I have found myself reflecting often on how we have been impacted by our nearly two-year isolation period during school.

“As we all sat behind a screen for what seemed like an endless amount of days, we all longed for some form of normalcy, some way to communicate with each other that didn’t involve mic or camera issues.

Annalis Parker

“We were forced to sit with ourselves and see what we could do during these long hours in our homes. Though going back out into the world holds even more weight after we were secluded for so long, we have a drive in us to express those interests and hobbies we discovered.”  — Annalis Parker Contributed

“But through all this time alone, I believe it allowed us to truly reflect and figure out what we love to do. We were forced to sit with ourselves and see what we could do during these long hours in our homes. Though going back out into the world holds even more weight after we were secluded for so long, we have a drive in us to express those interests and hobbies we discovered.”