The 2019-20 school year is coming to an end, and despite the unusual circumstances, Hamilton Township’s seniors are looking forward to the end of their high school careers.

The district’s students have been working from a virtual/remote learning environment due to COVID-19 since mid-March, and the members of the Class of 2020 have kept up their studies and worked toward graduation day.

On May 26, Gov. Phil Murphy authorized outdoor graduation ceremonies starting on July 6. The following day, superintendent Scott Rocco announced the district’s plans for graduation, which include in-person ceremonies on July 30 at each of the high schools.

“We have picked the end of July in hopes that the governor increases the number of attendees allowed at graduation,” Rocco said.

Also planned are a number of events in June, ending with a virtual graduation ceremony for each school, which will be posted on social media and the district’s TV station (HTV) on Wednesday, June 17.

Other plans include Senior Week from June 8-12, and Senior Spirit Week from June 11-17.

Senior Week will kick off on Monday, June 8, with the Senior Awards presentation, which will be streamed on each school’s website and HTV.

During the week, graduates will be invited to go to their school for a drive through pick up of diplomas, cap/gowns, yearbooks and other materials—as well as a special senior “care package,” Rocco said.

Senior Week activities include encouraging, students to decorate their front doors and home exteriors; decorate their graduation caps; and post pictures and school memories to district social media.

On graduation day, graduates are being asked to post pictures of themselves in their caps and gowns and to express their future plans on social media.

For more detailed information on the plans, go to the district’s website, hamilton.k12.nj.us.

The Hamilton Post reached out to all three high schools and asked for comments from seniors about the way their year turned out. Their responses, which were submitted before the news the schools were planning an in-person ceremony in July, appear below.

Hamilton West

Elezia Miller (student government president): Being a senior during this pandemic is extremely sad, we have lost three whole months with the people we will be leaving soon to start our new journeys in college, we have lost our prom and our graduation ceremony.

I remember the last day of school this year, if I had known it was going to be my last day walking the halls of Hamilton West as a student then I would have done things very differently. Throughout quarantine, I had kept hope in my heart that we would return to school at some point this year, but then as I went on and learned more about COVID-19 and the dangers of it, my mind changed.

Though losing a significant amount of my senior year of high school, I truly believe that not opening schools back up by any means is the best for the community! Keeping people safe should always be our number one priority! Senior year was incredible and I will cherish the memories I have made at Hamilton West, forever!   

Gafenlie Clerge (student government vice president): Having being a part of the class of 2020, I have never expected for this to occur. We as a class feel that we never really understood how important school and being apart of a class setting is good for us. Although our high school experience is over we will take the memories that Hamilton West has provided us and cherish them.

Elysia Ortiz (student government secretary): Since freshman year I can remember my friends and I being so excited about graduation. We all have older friends and siblings who we were able to see walk across that stage and envisioned ourselves as. Our Senior year finally approached and graduation was the one common goal we all had.

Teachers would talk about it, my friends and I started early planning on what we wanted to do. Then we get hit with the news that because of a pandemic, we will no longer have those experiences or the feeling of pride once walked across the stage being handed our diploma.

Being a senior during this pandemic is twofold. On one end it builds strength and unity with the entire class of 2020 globally, and we have the opportunity to say we are living though a historic event. But on the other end, its sad seeing as though we are not able to have our last goodbyes, or see our teachers who have brought us to where we are today, or get our yearbooks signed to reminisce through in the future. At the end of the day it is not the best to be a senior right now, but have to look at the bright side. At least I’m still graduating.

Nayeli Franco (student government treasurer): Being a senior during such a crucial time is obviously an unexpected circumstance—not to mention a very unpleasant one. I wanted to hug my friends one last time and remind them of the place they will forever hold in my heart, how much I will miss them when we go our separate ways, and most importantly, how much I love them.

It’s incredibly saddening to face the reality that I now can’t see them without a mask over our faces, or being at least six feet apart. I won’t be able to take pictures with them at prom or get lost in the crowd trying to find them at graduation.

Despite my current dilemma as a senior, I’ve also recognized that there are so many things to be thankful for that I regularly took for granted. There are individuals currently fighting for their lives, others who work on the front lines risking everything for the former, and many who simply live in fear of losing either one.

This pandemic, although seemingly temporary, will have a permanent impact on not only the Class of 2020, but the country and world as a whole. It is important to look forward, and continue to have a positive outlook on what we’ve learned from it, and what the future holds for all of us.

Samantha Badilla (senior class president): When Principal Brian Smith announced that schools would be closed for two weeks, I felt it was the perfect cure for senioritis! But when the time came upon reflection, I began to realize the events that we were possibly going to miss out on such as prom, project graduation, senior skip day, senior trip, and even graduation.

We’ve worked our hardest for the past 13 years just to simply walk across the stage and receive that diploma, but now we will never be able to experience this life-changing event that means the world to us. Even though it has been hard to look at this pandemic as a positive thing, however, knowing that seniors across the whole world are going through it together makes it less painful.

I wish I would’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to attend school when it was there. I think that we would’ve appreciated every moment we had in high school if we would’ve known that it would be our last day. To all my fellow seniors, you are not alone and I hope you all continue to stay strong and to keep in touch with everyone during this pandemic.

Malama Toure (senior class vice president): During this pandemic, my feelings have been scattered all over the place literally. There are moments when I’m just trying to be happy and go with the flow of my surroundings but then I become upset or sad when I think about how memories I was planning to make with my peers, went down the drain so fast.

I definitely take acknowledgement that around the world, everyone is heartbroken for sure. We are all going through a traumatic situation. I just continue to pray and seek guidance with God and all that is happening around us. This is a situation that knocked us down just to build us stronger for our future and understand how to deal with tragic situations. 

Auner Valle-Rodriguez (senior class secretary): With trying to maintain good grades through our online classes and keeping in touch with our peers being a senior during this pandemic has been very complicated to say the least. It’s hard to not think pessimistic during these hard times, especially not knowing if we’ll ever see our friends again.

We first went into this thinking it’s just gonna be a quick two week break and then everything will go back to normal, but as things escalated very quickly, little did we know that we will never see our peers or teacher ever again this year.

While working very hard to maintain good grades all throughout school, I thought that one day I would finally achieve one of my goals of walking across the stage my senior year. Yet coming to the realization that that goal will never be accomplished, It hasn’t stopped me from looking past the hard times and into the future.

I am very excited to go to college and to work very hard towards my other goals. Yes I am disappointed and see it as unfair that a lot of the things I’ve hoped to experience during my senior year will not happen. Rest assured, I will not let this stop me from achieving my bigger more ultimate goals in my future. 

Antwon Hodges-Jackson (senior class treasurer): I would say being a senior during this pandemic really is hard. It went from us having a break from seeing each other and the same faces to permanently being out of school.

I think it really hit hard once I thought about how I spent my last day. Not really getting to say goodbye to everyone. There is also no motivation to get any work done. I feel that not being in the class environment really makes a big difference. I hope that everyone stays healthy and does their part.

Nottingham

Angelina Paoline: Being a senior during a global pandemic is anything but great. We all have lost a lot through this time from our prom, our graduation and our final moments of high school with the people who made us who we are today.

Although these losses, along with many other undesirable events that have emerged from COVID-19, I will say I have learned some very valuable lessons during this time. Being a senior in the midst of a pandemic has taught me to always count my blessings, appreciate everything you have since it could be gone in the blink of an eye, and lastly to never lose your light. No matter the circumstances, remain positive and do not lose sight of what matters to you. This is just one milestone in our lives, will we have many many more in the future!

Andrea Uriostegui: You work hard for three years so that in four, you’d have the privilege of walking across the stage and receiving a diploma. You never wake up and think that your life or even your future could change in a matter of seconds.

If I had to explain what it’s like sitting at home being a senior, I might cry again. Seniors have lost the chance to make final high school memories. We have lost a prom, post prom, seniors trips, college tours and even our graduation.

Most importantly, we’ve lost time with the people who have become our family and friends. Sitting at home, you start to lose the motivation to do anything. You compare it to a day at school where you were surrounded by friends… and well, there is no comparison.

Remote learning has been difficult for many students, especially those in more rigorous courses. During this time, seniors are now anxious for the next step in our lives. However, we were raised and taught to be strong. We will overcome the struggles of this pandemic. We will thrive and become successful people in the world.

Steinert

Evie Giglio (student government president): Being a senior during the pandemic feels like I’ve been on a rollercoaster for the past 13 years of my life and now, when I was expecting the best drop, instead, I was thrown the biggest loop, literally.

These past few months have been crazy and so surreal. It feels like I have put in countless hours of hard work and preparation only to graduate in front of my dogs on a screen in my living room. It feels like my senior year has been ripped out of my hands and there is nothing I can do to get it back.

The class of 2020 is never going to get to say goodbye to their childhood. We are never going to have the best night of our lives and dance the night away at Senior Prom. We are never going to be able to say goodbye to our teachers and classmates. We are never going to step foot in our high school again as students. However, I will be forever grateful for everything that Steinert has given me these past four, very short, years.

Steinert has given me friendships that will last a lifetime and connections with teachers that I will truly never forget. It is with a heavy heart that I have to say goodbye to my childhood, virtually, so soon.