Faculty and students honor seniors


Julia Van Lare

An Arlington family displays a yard sign to honor their senior. The plan to distribute the signs was devised by the administration after seeing the idea implemented for other schools in Arlington.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancelation of all in-person senior events this spring, including graduation, prom and senior experience. This loss has left many seniors disappointed and grieving. Despite the restrictions, however, students and faculty have both worked to create opportunities for seniors to stay connected and engaged.
“While [we] might be social distancing, you don’t have to completely cut yourself off from your friends and your community,” senior Kaiya Mitchell said. “Especially because it is our last year here, it’s still important for us to have time together. Whether it’s just seeing where your friends are going to college or remembering a fun moment, [staying connected helps] get you out of the sadness that can be part of this isolation.”
One of the ways seniors have interacted with each other is through the Instagram account @wl20mems. This account, started by the Student Government Association (SGA) and Student Council Association (SCA) and run in part by Mitchell, posts seniors’ college decisions and memories from their experience at the school.
“It started out with videos of Mr. Gillis playing music during GP, or people on their first day in the senior lot, or just random things like that,” Mitchell said. “Then, T.C. Williams started doing an account for Decision Day, so we decided to convert our Instagram to that. Now, we’re doing little announcements for everyone.”
@wl20mems currently has 390 followers and 101 posts. Mitchell says she was surprised by the rate at which the account grew, but is inspired by the engagement and activity.
“The account is growing and we want it to keep growing,” Michell said. “[We encourage] people to keep submitting. They [can] just direct message (DM) us a picture of them, in college gear or in their cap and gown, and then where they’re going to school and what their major is. It’s totally fine if they’re undeclared or undecided.”
The administration has been working on ways to honor seniors as well, starting by placing lawn signs celebrating their graduation by their houses, and, recently, delivering caps and gowns to students.
“We did the yard signs, that was one of the first things that we did, just kind of a tangible way to let seniors know that we’re thinking of you, and we haven’t forgotten you,” Assistant Principal Ms. Claire Peters said.
While graduation cannot take place in person, Ms. Peters said it will include the normal aspects of graduation: speeches from a faculty member, a student, Dr. Robertson and the superintendent. Furthermore, it will include a video comprised of pictures of seniors in caps and gowns. Even with these plans, however, Ms. Peters said the in-person event is impossible to replace.
“The things we’ve done have recognized individual seniors, but it’s not really replacing the feeling of, ‘I want to be with the other seniors, too,’” Ms. Peters said. “That’s been the thing that we haven’t been able to replace and do anything for.”
Senior picnic, the day seniors normally have graduation practice, is a chance for seniors to get their senior gifts, sign yearbooks and participate in fun activities such as moon bounces. This year, Mitchell said it may be moved to either August 10 or 11, depending on restrictions on mass gatherings. It may also include a graduation ceremony.
“[The picnic is] a final goodbye to everyone before graduation, and kind of a goodbye to the school, too,” Mitchell said. “It is going to be a yearbook-signing activity fair and [a chance to] hang out with your friends at Quincy Park.”
If that event is not able to happen, the graduation ceremony may be moved to December, when students are at home from college for break.
“I hope that they know that everybody feels for them,” Ms. Peters said. “Even if we’re not able to recognize them with these big events, we are so proud of them. We want to recognize that this is truly a difficult time, and it is okay to be struggling with emotions related to that. We know they are going to do great things in the future.”