For Max Joseph and Emmanuella Udeh, both seniors in the Class of 2020, they shared a common vision of what it would be like to walk across the stage at graduation in early June, to go to the prom and to participate in all of the fun activities that come as a reward at the end of one’s last year of high school.
On Tuesday, the idea of going back to school and finishing their senior years in traditional fashion was dashed as Gov. Charlie Baker announced the closure of all public and private schools for the current school term.
“Right off the bat I was kind of upset about it because I won’t get the opportunity to walk across the stage at graduation,” he said. “It’s a once in a lifetime event. You work all those years from your freshman year to your senior year and you’re supposed to be able to celebrate now…I was looking forward to Senior Prom at my high school. I got to go last year, which was fortunate, but it was at another school…I was upset, but I guess I’m calm about it now.”
Joseph is a senior at Charlestown High and a resident of Charlestown – playing on the basketball team and tutoring students in his spare time while attending Bunker Hill Community College in the pathways program for business.
Udeh is a senior at Dexter Southfield, and she said she knew the writing was on the wall earlier this year concerning the closure. It hasn’t made it any easier though when she heard on Tuesday. Like Joseph, she said she had watched her brothers graduate from high school and always dreamed of the day everyone in the family would see her walk.
“I did get to watch my two older brothers graduate high school and I thought I would be the next one,” she said. “But then this happens. I hope graduations aren’t fully cancelled and they push them and have them later in the summer. It’s a huge event…I feel cheated out. I feel like our class got cheated. You go to school for 12 years and work so hard and have it all taken away.”
At Charlestown High, Principal Will Thomas said they are considering some options for seniors, including some kind of online graduation, but nothing is set in stone and they are taking any and all ideas.
“We were thinking of doing a Zoom ceremony to close out the year for the seniors who were supposed to graduate, but then have a live in-person graduation either during the summer or the fall,” he said. “It depends on when the closure ends. We are still thinking and planning.”
Joseph said he was up for something like that, coming back after school for prom, celebrations and graduation. However, he said he is quickly realizing how much he misses going to a school building.
“I’m going to miss interacting with the students and teachers,” he said. “I was building up strong relationships with my guidance counselors. They were supporting me and they motivated me to do my best in school. I’m just going to miss being in the school setting.”
For Udeh, she said she will miss places where she and her friends congregated on the Dexter Southfield campus to talk about schoolwork, to socialize and to hang out. That said, the work for high school continues. Already, the Advanced Placement tests have indicated they will do online versions of that test in May, so she is studying hard for that.
“Academically it has maybe hurt me a little because my school is still grading by percentage,” she said. “We’re not doing pass or fail. It’s also really hard to get up every day for class at 8:30 a.m. It was easier to get up earlier and to go to school for class.”
Already heading to Tufts University, she said she will not be able to take her campus tour and to collect information from the school as was the plan.
“I was supposed to go there to get a lot of information from them and it was going to line up perfectly with my school schedule,” she said. “It just would have been so much easier to go over to the school in person for that.”