2020 graduates find perspective in pandemic

St. Xavier High School classmates Max Bacon, left, and Corey Williams met up at Churchill Downs May 17 to pose with the historic Twin Spires, which were illuminated in green to honor graduates of their school, as well as graduates of Trinity High School and others in the Louisville area that use green as a school color. The spires have been illuminated in different colors all week to highlight high school graduates in the area. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

Kristin Graas, a 2020 Mercy Academy graduate, posed outside her home May 7 in her cap and gown. She plans to attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. (Photo Special to The Record)

By Kristen Graas’ accounting, she and her 121 Mercy Academy classmates, lost 52 days of the 1,362 school-year days promised to them as freshman.

The COVID-19 pandemic cut senior year short for the class of 2020. Gone are traditional graduation exercises, proms, senior athletics ceremonies and other rituals designed to honor the transition from high school to adulthood.

But that’s not the worst of it, from Graas’ perspective.

“I can live without graduation and a prom,” she said in a recent phone interview. “I miss being at school in the halls of Mercy, hugging my friends, sitting in class — the day-to-day life.

“Mercy has always been a big part of my life, but I didn’t realize how much I’d miss it. I didn’t realize how big a part. It was so abrupt.”

With only a few days to prepare, Kentucky schools closed in mid-March to help slow the spread of coronavirus. At that point, schools and families were not expecting schools to remain closed through the end of the school year.

Mercy plans to hold a graduation ceremony in July, or if that’s not advisable, to delay it until December. In the meantime Mercy has had other online celebrations for students.

Caleb Mattingly, a 2020 DeSales graduate was photographed in front of his home on Southern Parkway May 15. He plans to attend the University of Kentucky. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Other Catholic high schools have held similar non-traditional celebrations.DeSales High School leaders delivered diplomas and other recognitions to student homes on May 15. Students donned their caps and gowns to receive their awards.

As a teacher played Pomp and Circumstance on his smart phone, Caleb Mattingly tossed his brown DeSales cap into the air while his family looked on from the porch of their home on Southern Parkway.

Mattingly said that while missing the last weeks of his senior year and graduation “isn’t the end of the world,” it was still “disheartening.”

“I wanted to see my friends and cherish those last moments together,” said Mattingly during a recent phone interview. While he didn’t get to walk across a stage to receive his high school diploma, the school’s efforts to do something special for seniors meant a lot to him.

“It made my day,” he said. “They took the time to come see me. It meant a lot to see them show up and let us know that each of us matter and that we aren’t forgotten.”

He’s choosing to look at this time as a chance at “character building” and a lesson to take as he moves into the future.

“It’s not the end of the world,” he said. “There are more pressing issues. People are losing much more than a chance to go to prom and hanging out with friends.  This is only one trial.”

The new graduate plans to attend the University of Kentucky this fall and major in business. He also plans to “enjoy every second of it,” he said.

If all goes as planned, and she hopes it does, Kristin Graas will attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

While 2020’s graduates have not been able to experience much firsthand, their schools and the community have made great efforts to recognize them. Yard signs declaring the presence of graduates have cropped up like spring weeds in every neighborhood. And the school colors of Metro area high schools have illuminated the historic Twin Spires at Churchill Downs all week.

Click here to hear more from the class of 2020 in their own words.

Mikiah Livers-Bryant, a graduate of Bethlehem High School, posed with her yard sign delivered by members of the faculty and staff May 14. Mikiah plans to attend Princeton University in the fall. (Photo Special to The Record)

Liz Rosenfeld, a graduate of Assumption High School, threw her graduation cap in the air. Assumption’s faculty and staff visited students’ homes and delivered roses and other gifts on May 16 which would have been the day the school celebrated its graduation commencement ceremony. (Photo Special
to The Record)

Nick Pesce, a Trinity High School graduate, smiled as his mom, Brittany Pesce, pinned a green carnation to his shirt. The class of 1976 donated a carnation to each graduating senior. (Photo Special to The Record)

Noel Skillman, a Holy Cross High School graduate, accepted her diploma from principal Jennifer Barz. The school also held an Alumni Induction Drive-in event on campus where graduates were treated to a drive-in dinner. (Photo Special to The Record)

Ryane Jones, a Sacred Heart Academy graduate, smiled as she showed off a hand heart during the “Legacy Drive” held on the school’s campus in early May. The school also held a rose parade May 17 on campus where each graduate received a dozen roses. (Photo Special to The Record)

Fernanda Scharfenberger, above, a Presentation Academy graduate, received help from her mom, Maria Scharfenberger, with pinning the Pres alumnae pin unto her gown. (Photo Special to The Record)

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