Unexpected ending: Local high school seniors react to sudden changes

Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Berryville High School seniors Hannah Blitz, JoDee Smith and Cecilia Doss smile in their caps and gowns. With the school year cut short by concerns over COVID-19, it’s not clear when local schools will hold their graduation ceremonies.
Submitted photo

By Haley Schichtl


High school seniors in Carroll County had their final year of school abruptly cut short as schools across the state were closed to on-site instruction in mid-March to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Monday that the schools will remain closed through the remainder of the academic year.

Seniors from Berryville, Green Forest and Eureka Springs expressed a variety of emotions over the unusual circumstances.


“You always think about how your last day is going to go, but on our last day, we didn’t know it was going to be our last day,” Berryville senior Cecilia Doss said.

Doss said she wishes she had known at the time so she could say goodbye to her teachers and peers. Doss also missed her senior season as a track and field athlete.

“When someone asked me at the beginning of the year how the year was going to end, I definitely didn’t expect it to be with a pandemic,” Doss said.

Jacey Howerton said she’s disappointed to miss out on events at the end of the school year.

“It’s kind of sad because all the fun stuff was happening in April,” Howerton said. “Now it’s kind of chaotic because us seniors are trying to get all of our scholarship stuff turned in, and that’s kind of hard to do when we’re not allowed to be at school … and have those resources.”

Howerton said she has been accepted to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and will be starting classes in the fall.

“I’ll have orientation in May, but I guess right now I’ll just work and finish my AP class,” Howerton said.

Colton Record said he is glad to be finished with school.

“All of my sports were finished, so I didn’t have to miss out on any athletics,” Record said. “I have been using my time to work, and I have been completing applications.”

JoDee Smith said she’ll be attending Arkansas Tech University in Russellville in the fall.

“I have very mixed emotions about it. I have AP classes to finish, but I’m kind of relieved to be done with my other work,” Smith said. “Missing out on my everyday routine has kind of been a hard transition. It’s a weird bittersweet feeling.”

Smith said it’s been a little difficult not being able to ask her teachers questions in person and talk to other students about her work.

“But we all have our Chromebooks and are able to stay connected with our teachers and stuff, so that’s been helpful,” Smith said.

Shane Wilson said he had a case of senioritis, so he was not too sad to be done with classes.

“The hard part for me was not being able to spend the last few months with my friends before we go off to college or work,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he is looking to go into the workforce, but many businesses are closed right now, which has made the job-searching process difficult.

“It’s kind of hard to get anything lined up if you can’t actually go into the business and speak to the employer,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he’ll miss school activities and student council, which allowed him to be involved in the community and spend a lot of time with his peers.

Green Forest

Green Forest salutatorian Kendall DeMeyer said she was really disappointed to have the last few months of school taken away from her at first, but she is trying to look on the bright side.

“We don’t get to do senior skip day, a final senior prank, or walk the halls with people we’ll probably never see after high school again,” DeMeyer said. “As soon as we are able to be around other people, some of my friends and I are going to make the best out of a bad situation.”

DeMeyer said she really hopes the graduation ceremony and prom don’t get canceled.

“I will be very disappointed if we don’t get the recognition we deserve,” DeMeyer said. “Even if the ceremony has to take place in August, I think we should still get to celebrate.”

DeMeyer said she’ll be attending the University of Arkansas in the fall.

“For me it is a little upsetting, because you look forward to senior year and participating in all these activities, and now we’re not getting to do a lot of it,” Isabel Cenobio said.

Student council president Brisa Fernandezdelara said she’s very upset about having her senior year cut short.

“A couple days before we got out due to COVID-19 we had just had a class meeting about our last senior activities and graduation, everything we’ve been waiting for, and just like that it was taken away,” Fernadezdelara said.

Fernandezdelara said she is very upset about having to miss out on track season and band events.

“Every track meet we have I look forward to making new friends from other schools, coaches pronouncing my last name wrong and doing my best to break my PR (personal record) every time,” Fernandezdelara said. “This year I was unable to perform at our Christmas concert because I got terribly sick so I looked forward to performing at assessment and end of the year concert.”

Fernandezdelara said she plans to attend Northwest Arkansas Community College for two years and then get a bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas.

Eureka Springs

Grayson Ertel said she has very mixed emotions about school ending early.

“I’m sad that I didn’t know it was my last time being at school. It kind of stinks I didn’t get to say bye to teachers and friends,” Ertel said. “But at the same time I’m happy that we got it easy. My friends from different states are still having to complete their schoolwork even though they aren’t going back to school.”

Ertel said she is trying to spend as much of her time outdoors as she can, and soaking up the time she spends with her family before she goes off to college.

“We were all looking forward to it, just the end of our senior year, and now our next big thing to be excited for is college, but it seems so far away,” Ertel said.

Ertel said she is on the yearbook staff at school. The staff still has to finish the yearbook which is difficult when they’re not at school.

“We’re not all at school the same time to talk about it, so we’re having to communicate through email, and that’s kind of tough,” Ertel said.

Madison Cannady said she’s disappointed to miss out on prom, senior skip day and senior prank day.

“Every day we went to school we would always say and say, ‘Ugh! I don’t want to be here!’ ” Cannady said. “But now that we can’t be there, all we want to do is go back to say goodbye to our friends and teachers and hug each other tight.”

Cannady said not being near the school’s resources that can help students with scholarship applications has made it a bit harder, but counselor Rachal Hyatt is still available by email.

“I know Mrs. Hyatt is just an email away if I need any help,” Cannady said. “She’s awesome at making sure we all have what we need to succeed.”

Hyatt said the students have a good attitude about the unfortunate circumstances.

“Their sight is set on things that are coming around to them in August and most of them are college-bound or they’re going right into the job force,” Hyatt said.

Hyatt said she still hopes to have the usual scholarship ceremony for the seniors, even if it has to be online.

Hyatt said things are also still uncertain for prom and graduation. Basin Park Hotel has a tentative prom date set in May, and graduation is still scheduled for May 18, but those events could be postponed if needed.

“They’ve had a lot of trials and tribulations along the way,” Hyatt said of thesenior class. “Every one of their bad days – they’ve always come through it.”

Hyatt said she would like to tell the students to make sure to take this in a positive way.

“Things happen unexpectedly and will for the rest of your life. Don’t use it as any kind of detriment but use it to propel you,” Hyatt said.

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