Gone too soon

Falcon seniors reminisce on an unpredicted last goodbye


Photo published with permission by Alex Solbrig

“It’s really upsetting that I had my last day stepping foot in West High School as a student and I didn’t even know it,” senior Alex Solbrig said. Unable to celebrate on the graduation stage, Solbrig celebrates her high school accomplishments at home and is ready for whatever her future brings.

Sarah Bernick, Managing Editor

Many high school students dream of walking across the stage on the day of their senior graduation, celebrating the past four years they have had with their classmates. Parents and guardians are planning graduation parties ahead of time, with a long list of family and friends to invite. Seniors have imagined running out of school with their friends on the last day and looking back at the building one last time before saying hello to their future. But for the class of 2020, this dream can never become a reality.

Senioritis, which is the affliction in a student’s final year of high school resulting in a lack of motivation, is a term used by most students when the final high school year is coming to an end. However, the class of 2020 cannot completely relate to this term, having said goodbye to  senior year already without even knowing it. Senior Hailey Stewart grieves about the small memories that made her senior year one to remember.

“It’s all like the little things. Your last day driving to school and walking inside. Seeing all your favorite teachers and eating lunch with your best friends. Not hearing the daily announcements,” Stewart said. 

As the little things cause seniors to reminisce on their last days at West, the drastic change in feelings about the school experience are starting to build up.

“COVID-19 really changed how I felt about school. The saying ‘you don’t miss something until it’s gone’ really applies here. For example, there were days I skipped school and woke up and would rather do anything but attend. Now I would do anything to wake up to my alarm and drive to school,” Stewart said.

As Stewart looks back on her memories at West High School, she explains how much she is really going to miss being a Falcon. However, she will still continue to cherish everything that she was able to have. 

Not only are seniors reflecting on their memorable moments at West, but feeling exasperated by the timing of the COVID-19 rise.

“The worst part about not going back to school is the timing,”  senior Grace Thalacker said. “We were right at the end of the year with prom, graduation, the senior picnic, and just in general spending my last couple of months at West before going to college.”

West High School has special activities just for seniors so that they are able to leave behind unforgettable moments while heading into the future. The class of 2020 will not only have to leave without their last extra moments, but without their last spring and summer season of sports as well.

“I was looking forward to soccer. It’s probably the only thing going for me majorly affected by school ending,” senior Andres Gonzales said. “This year was also going to be a rebuild year for me. It was going to be interesting, but there were super high expectations.” 

A major difference for most students is the everyday change from school to home. Quarantine has caused uneasiness for seniors who looked forward to the school day.

“A hard part about school ending early was having a steady routine ripped away. I miss getting to start off my day with all my best friends with the dance team,” senior Spencer Bigalk said. “I miss spending half of the day at Children’s Village West with all the preschoolers who I got to watch grow and learn every day.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped boost the appreciation and understanding of the smallest things in life that are effortless to look past.

“I won’t ever take basic human interaction and face-to-face communication for granted anymore. I never realized how important it was until it was all put on hold so suddenly,” Bigalk said.

More rising questions like “How will seniors graduate with enough credit?” have been asked throughout the unexpected cancellations. Administration and the School Board are doing what they can to answer these upcoming questions.

“Because of the challenges we face with socialization restrictions, both the State Board of Education and our local district board of education have waived required courses and have provided a reduced credit allowance for all seniors,” administrator Mike Orfitelli said. “This means if a senior has earned 20 or more units of credit they will be granted their high school diploma.” 

Not only are plans for credit being worked out, but one of the biggest fears a senior is facing, missing out on graduation.

“I just received word yesterday that the Davenport Community Schools will be creating a ‘virtual graduation’ to be presented the first weekend in June. The plan all year was to have our graduation ceremony on June 7 at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline. The ceremony date is still the target but the ceremony, as stated will be virtually presented,” Orfitelli said.

It might be hard to imagine what the class of 2020 is going through right now, but one way to help is to listen and really take in what they have to say.

“My advice to the next graduating class is try not to take anything for granted. Even when classes get hard or drama gets in the way, try your best to still make the most of your high school experience,” senior Alex Solbrig said.

As students grow older and the work gets harder, it is easy to get distracted by the small things and forget everything that West has to offer, like seasonal sports, clubs, and extra activities. West offers a wide variety of things that can interest all types of people looking to get involved.

“Be close with the people in your grade, go to sporting events, try playing sports and getting involved in different clubs or activities, work hard every practice, go to every school dance, and appreciate your teachers and all that they do for you because once it’s gone, you’ll want it back so badly,” Solbrig said.

This historical year will forever be seared into the memories of the graduating class of 2020 well into the future. It will become a chapter in history books perhaps titled “The year the world stopped.” A year that will be looked upon for the good and the bad.

“Our seniors will forever remember these days and the challenges that they are experiencing.  They may be thinking ‘we lost out’ or ‘we were cheated out of…’, but really I hope they remember how they, the community, and the world became more creative, more innovative, more flexible, more intuitive, and more relational,” Orfitelli said. “A sense that something absent becomes a chance to fill, a chance to change, creates confidence in ourselves that we can all overcome future challenges.” 

Look back on the happy and exciting memories created through the years of high school. Be thankful for the small things in life, before they are gone too soon seems to be the words of wisdom here.

“I wish that I could restart senior year and appreciate all of the great friends, teachers, sporting events, and all the memories that I had,” Bigalk said. “Not getting the chance to say my goodbyes and have the closure that I was expecting to receive has made me miss everything about West that much more.”