Hays CISD seniors ride out anticlimactic year

More than 600 students are scheduled to graduate from Hays High School this year, but the worry is if they will be able to walk with their friends, or will they have to do a virtual graduation.

There has been no word that seniors in Hays CISD will graduate virtually, but the idea of graduating online has been circulating on social media nationwide and has some seniors worried. Restrictions on gatherings have only gotten tighter and there is no concrete date on when restrictions will loosen. One Hays High School senior, Ashley Nguyen, doubts that they will do a virtual graduation. Ultimately, the decision is not up to her, but she is very hopeful that she and her classmates will get the opportunity.

“We’re definitely getting a graduation,” Nguyen said. “If it were something we had to do virtually, I don’t think it would work out; it would be chaotic because there are so many seniors [at Hays High School]and in the country.”

Nguyen’s enthusiasm and school spirit have kept her thinking positively during this uncharted time, even though she, like many other students, have lost opportunities along the outbreak.

Her flexible job has been put on hold for as long as COVID-19 restrictions are in place. With the money she makes at her job, Nguyen planned to save up to pay for some university needs and for entertainment.

But Nguyen’s job is not the only one taking a hit. One of her friends, a junior at Hays High School, was going to work for the YMCA as a lifeguard. After the YMCA closed its doors, Sarah Brager is temporarily out of work.

The two experienced very similar issues with their work, but the virus has differently affected their schooling.

Nguyen is about to graduate and has secured her place at a university. As a very active part of the school, vice president in the Student Council, Nguyen arranges many activities which are now cancelled. Every three years, Hays High School holds a program that teaches about the effects of drunk-driving. She can no longer arrange this program which she felt passionate about.

Seniors will also lose their senior trip; this year they planned to go to Six Flags with part of the day rented out just for their class. There are alternative options in mind, but that does not mean that they can pursue them, given the ongoing changes in restrictions.

Brager’s case differs. As a junior, she is preparing to apply for universities with many exams and experiences that pave the path for acceptance, but now she is unsure what will happen.

First, the March SAT exam was moved to April 4. Then, there was talk that if they cannot make it to that date, it might be moved online. Brager is unsure how that would work and worries that this eschews her university plans.

This year is also very crucial in education, not just for SAT exams. Brager worries that she will not get as much learning out of it as she needs for her senior year. Even if her courses are moved online, she does not think the quality of educational matches the quality of physical attendance. Her AP exams are in May and she is afraid the shift to online schooling will make her less successful.

“I honestly think things are going to get worse before they get better,” Brager said. “I’m expecting the school year to be rocky. Our activities are probably going to be cancelled for UIL Journalism.”

Cancelling the UIL will hurt Brager because she plans on majoring in journalism at Northwestern University, New York University or The University of Texas at Austin. In order to get accepted into these highly competitive schools, she needs to rack up experience and high grades.

Both students feel disappointment in their prom. This year, they had rented a venue at Circuit of the Americas which will no longer occur. They may be able to do a prom at another venue, but at this point they are playing it by ear. Many students have already invested in $60 tickets and are unsure if they will still get a prom.

For the time being, these two students are taking a different approach on handling the virus. Brager is practicing social distancing and has not implemented a quarantine, although this may change soon.

Once a busy student, Nguyen now finds herself with too much time on her hands. She does not enjoy the feeling but she does feel like she gets more time than she has had in a long time to spend with her family members.

Nguyen began her quarantine and has been trying to find entertainment with her younger siblings by making comedic log videos which dramatize their quarantine experience. She even found herself watching videos of fish giving birth.

Although these students’ near-future is uncertain and they face different challenges, they are doing what they can to stay safe, entertained and calm.

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About Author


Sahar Chmais holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been covering cities in Hays County for one year, touching on residents' struggles and successes, city issues, COVID-19 and more. Prior to reporting on the local spectrum, Sahar reported for a national news organization, covering gun violence. Sahar enjoys working as a local reporter because she gets to work with real people and their stories.

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