SHREVEPORT, La. — Prom and graduation have become cultural milestones of American life, as teenagers begin a new chapter as adults.
To help slow the spread of Covid-19, Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered Louisiana schools to be closed until April 13. This leaves many important events for high school seniors in question, including proms and graduation ceremonies.
“I’ve cried. A lot, actually,” said Callie Coffman, a senior at Northwood High School. “Everybody’s saying that we won’t have graduation, we won’t have that last prom, and it’s been very upsetting. Like, my mom has held me while I cried over this.”
Coffman is on Northwood’s dance team. The team’s spring show and national competition were also cancelled. Now, Coffman looks forward to continuing her dance career after graduation.
“I am supposed to be trying out for the Bossier Parish Community College dance team, and that hasn’t been cancelled yet,” Coffman said. “I’ve been stretching, and it’s really keeping me in my mental state. I’ve been dealing with it pretty fine.”
Hailey Beuscher, who attends Caddo Magnet High School and plans to attend Louisiana Tech in the fall, said her prom was also canceled. She remains unsure about her graduation ceremony.
“It’s a day-by-day,” Beuscher said. “With everything going on with Covid-19, we’re just taking it day by day.”
“It puts a little fear in my heart because for a lot of people here at Byrd, this is going to be the last time I see them,” said Payton Doyal, a senior at C.E. Byrd High School. “Certain events that allow me to see people the final time, I feel like I’m going to have to miss out on.”
Doyal said he hopes he will be able to have his classmates sign his yearbook before he heads to Tulane University in the fall.
While the classrooms are empty, the students’ schedules remain full.
As students spent their first days at home last week, Beuscher said staying on track was difficult at first.
“The first few days, I really struggled with getting into a routine. I was not doing the work that I needed to be doing because I was at home and there were so many distractions,” Beuscher said. "I decided to come up with a schedule and wake up at a certain time every day, and just make a schedule hour by hour of what schoolwork I needed to do.”
Beuscher said she’s also scheduling breaks to go for walks with her family.
“I’ve been able to find good times that I’m really productive here, but for certain classes it’s just kind of like you have to just keep pushing through it,” said Doyal, who said adapting to his math homework has been his biggest challenge. “I’m really having to break it down and do a little bit of it at at time to try to teach myself.”
Many instructors are using video conferencing platforms, like Zoom, to connect with and instruct students. Beuscher said it’s been a good opportunity to see her classmates.
The students are also making an extra effort to keep up with friends on social media, video chats and over the phone.
“It’s not the same as being able to see that friend and hug them and just tell them that you love them. You can do that over text, or whatever, but it’s really not the same,” Coffman said. “I’m used to seeing these people every single day of the week, and it’s kind of heartbreaking.”
While they can’t see their friends in person, the students are sending words of encouragement.
“Just stay strong and stay persistent,” Doyal said. “Don’t let all of this craziness put you down and stop you from doing what you know you can do.”
“We will make it,” Coffman said. “We are the class of 2020 and we are going strong.”