Rest in Peace, Senior Year

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Photo Credit: Brynn Lemons

While classes move online, the senior class mourns their last semester at Dakota Ridge. “A part of me has always been oddly proud to be a 2020 graduate because I thought it would be super cool to start a new chapter of my life at the beginning of the decade,” Caley Akiyama (12) says.

Brynn Lemons, Staff Writer

Dakota Ridge High School is vacant. 

The wind slashes through an empty parking lot, bringing rain and sleet. Only a week ago, Dakota Ridge had been full of the bustle of students stuffing loose papers into backpacks, calling out to friends, and rushing out the front doors, into the sun. 

Now, the parking lot is full of ghosts. 

“If we don’t get to return to school,” Caley Akiyama says, “then I’ll have already had my last day of high school. It’s wild to think about.”

She’s a senior. For the past four years, Akiyama has walked through the halls of Dakota Ridge, made friends with students and teachers alike, and joined extracurriculars. Now her final year has flatlined with little to no warning.  

With rising concerns over the fast-spreading coronavirus, all Jeffco schools have been shut down until April 17th. Dakota Ridge has moved to remote learning for these weeks, yet it’s not the online school that the senior class is struggling with, but the remaining time they have within the Dakota Ridge walls.

“I never thought most of this high school stuff would matter to me, but we’re facing the possibility of no special ‘last times’ and it’s a harder pill to swallow than I thought,” Akiyama says. “We won’t get a senior prom, senior prank day, a last school rally, or senior trip. And maybe even no graduation.”

Ryan Bui, another senior, feels similarly. “Senior year isn’t looking too bright,” he says. “It’ll never be what senior year was designed to be.”

On March 12th it began. Announcements rang in left and right over new cancellations. Sports, theater, field-trips, after-school concerts and activities — all slashed. That night, families were contacted that Dakota Ridge would be boarding up its doors.

“I was pretty excited for senior year,” Aaron Lowery (12) says. “I was excited to take the classes I wanted to take and be able to be more free.”

Photo Credit: Brynn Lemons
The senior parking lot is eerily empty, missing its usual car clutter and laughter from the senior class.

It was the last semester for seniors to enjoy their high school year, but due to these cancellations and the sudden move to remote learning, the senior class was gutted of their usual opportunities. 

“I’m a little bummed about the whole situation,” Lowery says. “I miss being able to see my friends every day, that’s probably the biggest. We became friends through school, and not being able to see them or talk to them is pretty hard. Being pseudo-quarantined is not very fun.”

“I for sure took for granted being able to interact with people on a daily basis,” Katelyn Wilson (12) says on remote learning. “I feel like we all, as a collective group, took for granted seeing each other every day.”

Despite the somberness of the situation, the loneliness and difficulty behind such an important year being stolen from the Dakota Ridge 2020 class, there’s still hope and the promise of better, easier times. 

“It really sucks that all of our big senior things got cancelled, but we can still make the best of this whole situation, and this doesn’t have to be the end,” Wilson says. She’s begun to invest time in reading and writing while away from school, as well as keeping up her friendships via text and FaceTime. “I think it’s important for me to stay positive.”

“Even though it’s a really sad time, we’re going to remember this. It’s a memorable time, even if it’s not what we would’ve liked, I’m sure we can make the best out of where we are right now,” Lowery says. 

Despite missing his AP Biology class and the now-cancelled cadaver lab, Lowery hopes that spending more time indoors can help broaden his “creative range.” “I’ve kept up by baking. I’ve baked three loaves of bread, and I’m planning on doing more,” he says.

“I know that at the end of the day I’ll still have my friends and memories,” Akiyama says. Her dream of walking across the Red Rocks stage may be jilted, but she refuses to let these new torrents dampen her final year at Dakota Ridge. “We’ll make things work. This is a part of life, and I know that this will pass.”

So while seniors are bundled up in their houses, chipping away at their days as high school students, Dakota Ridge sits solemnly beside an empty parking lot. This isn’t the ideal, but there’s a promise in the air that despite rough times, a brighter horizon is waiting for the graduating class.