Clark, Champaign high school graduates: ‘Pandemic taught us not to take things for granted’

Family and friends cheer as the Springfield High School class of 2021 is presented at the conclusion of the first of three graduation ceremonies Saturday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Family and friends cheer as the Springfield High School class of 2021 is presented at the conclusion of the first of three graduation ceremonies Saturday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The Class of 2021 ended their junior year in high school on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic was raging when those students started their senior year in late 2020.

They wondered if they would have a chance at a traditional send-off with homecoming dances, proms and crowded graduations -- all things the class before them missed.

They worried if there would be any sense of normalcy to their milestone year.

Through a year that offered challenges, difficulties and hope, several graduates in Clark and Champaign counties said they feel the pandemic taught them not to take things for granted.

Some of them shared their stories with the Springfield News-Sun.

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Kendel Dolby - Springfield High School

Kendel Dolby said, “COVID impacted his high school career in a big way.” He said not only was virtual learning a big struggle, but also when it came to football games.

“One of the biggest struggles for me was having to switch to virtual... Times when cases would be high in the school or city and staff was low, we had to go to virtual. I’m more of hands-on learner, being in the classroom, interacting with the teachers. Virtual was hard because we were on screens, everything was new,” Dolby said.

“I also play football. Our games were limited and there were not a lot of fans in the stands. It (COVID) impacted a lot,” he added.

Although they were able to have prom and graduation, while wearing masks, Dolby said it was still a little different.

“The biggest lesson I learned is not taking stuff for granted as much and appreciating what you got,” he said. “It changed my outlook on life to appreciate what you got in the moment. Before COVID, a lot of people took stuff for granted - being able to interact with people, going to school and being able to walk around with no masks. It changed the way I look at stuff now. I appreciate a lot more things.”

Dolby said he had to learn a lot on his own this year, but it made him a stronger person. He said one of his accomplishments was having a 3.0 GPA or higher all year.

Dolby received a scholarship and will be attending and playing football at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.

“My goal is, every athlete wants to go to the league, make it to the NFL, but if it doesn’t work out, I’ll still have the opportunity to go to college, get my degree,” he said.

Kendel Dolby, Springfield High School 2021 graduate, and brother Kyron Dolby. CONTRIBUTED
Kendel Dolby, Springfield High School 2021 graduate, and brother Kyron Dolby. CONTRIBUTED

Terah Harness - Tecumseh High School

Terah Harness said she feels lucky that she got to have a “semi normal senior year,” but learning was hard for her.

“We still got to do some things that were big in our senior year. so, we’re just lucky to get those things,” she said. “Learning was the hardest because we went online and then we were hybrid, so that messed with everything learning wise.”

Harness said COVID-19 gave her a positive outlook and how to not take things for granted.

“COVID really opened our eyes to what can be taken away, so it’s important to cherish the memories you have with your friends and enjoy your senior year,” she said. “Definitely cherish what you have now. Don’t take things for granted, especially if you’re younger, you still have those years left, so just cherish it.”

Harness, who also plays basketball, graduated with honors and was on the National Honor Society.

She will attend the University of South Carolina Upstate, and said her major is undecided, but she will be playing D1 basketball.

“I think it’s definitely a positive outlook moving forward. Just to go to college, have an open mind about everything and just enjoy what we have in front of us and that we even get to go to college in person,” Harness said.

Terah Harness, Tecumseh High School 2021 graduate. CONTRIBUTED
Terah Harness, Tecumseh High School 2021 graduate. CONTRIBUTED

Tia Runner - Tecumseh High School

Tia Runner said doing online classes was a struggle, but at least they were able to have some things.

“I definitely struggled with doing online classes,” she said. “Even though we had to wear a mask, at least we got something rather than nothing at all, such as prom and college signing day.”

As for her accomplishments, Runner said she was still able to graduate with college credits through the College Credit Plus program at Clark State

“Step out of your comfort zone because you’ll look back on it and regret not doing it,” Runner added.

Since COVID-19, Runner said she tries to get together with her friends and classmates while she can, and that she feels lucky to have had the senior year she did.

“I’m glad we get to graduate with out friends and were able to watch them graduate. Last year, they did it one person at a time and none of their friends got to see each other graduate,” Runner said.

Runner will attend Capital University to major in nursing.

Tia Runner, Tecumseh High School 2021 graduate. CONTRIBUTED
Tia Runner, Tecumseh High School 2021 graduate. CONTRIBUTED

Gabriel Ward - Tecumseh High School

Although the year ended up being “a lot of fun,” Gabriel Ward said he still had his struggles.

“The first quarter, we had the full online learning plan and I think for a lot of us that was discouraging in some kind of way. For me personally, it was just a matter of meeting the circumstances where they were,” he said.

Ward said COVID-19 definitely changed his outlook on life, which he also said was his biggest lesson.

“I had to realize that no matter what the circumstances were, I could still choose to be joyful. I can still choose, maybe not necessarily having to enjoy the situation, but to have a mindset about it that was open, willing and ready to deal with the outcomes,” he said. “Regardless of what was going to happen with school, even though that was really tough, it’s going to happen and what are you going to do about it... It was definitely a hard lesson to learn, but I think a good one overall.”

Ward’s biggest struggle was the isolation, just waking up every morning to look at a laptop. He said it did get better with second quarter when the school used a hybrid learning plan, then finally transitioning back to in-person learning.

Ward has enlisted in the Ohio Air National Guard. He will be going to Wright State University, majoring in computer science.

“With those plans, given the lessons learned, I think everything I learned and being ready, open and willing to meet circumstances where I’m at, I think that will be beneficial moving into the future,” he said.

Gabriel Ward, Tecumseh High School 2021 graduate. CONTRIBTUED
Gabriel Ward, Tecumseh High School 2021 graduate. CONTRIBTUED

Rebecca Samosky - Catholic Central

Rebecca Samosky said experiencing her senior year through a pandemic “has been hard not being able to do the things normal seniors do.”

“We didn’t get to have a homecoming or normal prom... because we didn’t really get these senior privileges, it was hard for me to believe I was actually a senior and that I would be graduating,” she said.

Although a lot of things were canceled, Samosky said she did get to spend more time with her family.

“COVID-19 helped me realize how blessed we are to be able to spend time with others and how much we take it for granted,” she said.

Overall, Samosky said she learned to enjoy being at a small school because otherwise students might not have been able to attend classes in-person.

Samosky was in the National Honors Society, Key Club and was a class officer. She was also the Valedictorian of her class, all while playing volleyball, soccer and softball.

She plans to attend Ohio State University in the fall, majoring in mathematics.

Rebecca Samosky, Catholic Central 2021 graduate. CONTRIBUTED
Rebecca Samosky, Catholic Central 2021 graduate. CONTRIBUTED

Juliet Pleskach - Catholic Central

Juliet Pleskach said her senior year of high school was interesting as she used virtual learning the entire year.

“My issues and struggle were mainly at the beginning of the school year when my family and I were deciding if I would be in-person or virtual learning. My dad has some health issues that make him higher risk, so we knew him getting COVID-19 was the last thing we wanted... so we decided I would be virtual learning,” she said.

“I was very upset about it and had a hard time coping with the fact that I wasn’t going to see my friends my senior year,” she added.

Pleskach said the pandemic changed her outlook by making her be more involved with the news and what was going on in the world. She said the downside of COVID-19 was “being upset over how unfair it seemed to make some things,” but the upside was the quality time with herself and her family.

“COVID-19 helped me learn that it’s okay to have time to yourself. It also helped me learn that the time we have to ourselves can be just as valuable as time spent with others,” she said.

Pleskach plans to attend Hollins University in Virginia and said she “couldn’t be more excited.”

Juliet Pleskach, Catholic Central 2021 Graduate. CONTRIBUTED
Juliet Pleskach, Catholic Central 2021 Graduate. CONTRIBUTED

Maddie Campbell - Triad High School

Maddie Campbell said going through her senior year during a pandemic, it “definitely” affected her mental health.

“My mental health definitely went up and down. While in quarantine, I felt really sad and alone. Being away from people has made my anxiety worse, so it was hard to adjust to the world again. It was also scary not knowing if or when it could get taken away again,” she said.

“But when we got back to school, I felt really happy... Everyone seemed so happy and grateful that we were back together,” she added.

The year was stressful and messy, Campbell said, but being away from each other last year has made them closer this year.

“The distance made us appreciate each other and everything Triad has provided for us... COVID-19 has taught us not to take things for granted. We realized how fast everything can be taken away and we also learned that we need to enjoy all of the little things,” Campbell said.

Campbell will be attending Clark State College to study radiographic imaging.

Maddie Campbell, Triad High School 2021 graduate. CONTRIBUTED
Maddie Campbell, Triad High School 2021 graduate. CONTRIBUTED

Coleman Hauck - Triad High School

Coleman Hauck said this year was different, but did not change his outlook on life.

“My senior year was very different from the last three years. We didn’t get to do many activities other than school work,” he said. “COVID-19 has not changed my outlook, it’s just a little bump in the road.

The good thing during COVID-19, Hauck said, was getting to see his friends, but his biggest issue was socializing since he didn’t get to see those friends much.

“One good thing about going to school during COVID was you got to see your friends everyday, and maybe that was the only time you got to see those people during the COVID-19 months,” he said. “Going to school was good to see your friends, but at school we didn’t get to do many things because of COVID-19, like field trips and activities... even parents weren’t allowed at some sporting events.”

Hauck feels he accomplished many things during his senior year, including “maintaining a 3.5 GPA or higher all year” and he got his 100th win in wrestling.

As for what lies ahead of him, Hauck said he is looking forward to playing baseball at college, but is undecided where he will go or what he will major in.

Coleman Hauck, Triad High School 2021 graduate. CONTRIBUTED
Coleman Hauck, Triad High School 2021 graduate. CONTRIBUTED

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