What it's like for these high school students to miss their last semester before graduation

Local high school graduates talk about how COVID-19 squashed their prom and graduation plans this year.

Schools have been closed since March because of COVID-19

Windsor-Essex high school graduates from left, Bianca Loyuk, Ethan Marentette, Kiana Dobson and Marc Galipeau share what it's like missing the final months and moments of their last year of high school. (CBC)

At this time of year under normal circumstances, graduating high school students would already have chosen their gowns and rented their tuxedos for the prom. 

But because of COVID-19, there will be no proms — and plans for graduation ceremonies are uncertain.

Some local Grade 12 students have shared their thoughts with CBC Windsor on what it's like missing the final months of school before many head off to post-secondary institutions, ready to start the next chapter of their lives.

WATCH | Here's what four local grads had to say about missing the final months of Grade 12:

Windsor-Essex high school students Kiana Dobson, Ethan Marentette, Bianca Loyuk and Marc Galipeau share their thoughts about missing the last months of Grade 12. 2:24

Grade 12 student Kiana Dobson is getting ready to graduate from Cardinal Carter Secondary School in Leamington. She said she's been busy keeping up with online classes and her part-time job, but can't help but feel sad about missing her graduation and prom.

In fact, she already had a dress picked out. 

"I'm slowly coming to terms and accepting the fact that it most likely won't happen," said Dobson. "It's a little hard on the heart because it's always something that I've dreamed of since I was a little girl."

We have to realize there are bigger problems at stake and people's lives are at risk.- Kiana Dobson, Grade 12 student

Dobson, who is also captain of her school's dance team, has also missed competition.

"I am missing all my sports," said Marc Galipeau, a Grade 12 student at Sandwich Secondary in LaSalle who has missed OFSAA, the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations' tournament, for badminton.

"We just missed our provincials for volleyball ... It's kind of upsetting but, at the end of the day, you just have to look forward to the future." 

Grade 12 student Kiana Dobson, right, is planning on attending the University of Windsor next year and join the Windsor Express Dance Team. (Submitted by Kiana Dobson)

Despite what they're missing, both students are extremely focused on what they've been gaining. 

"I'm focusing on a lot of homework and staying in touch with family and friends on the phone making sure they're all okay," said Galipeau, adding he's having "awesome" family meals every single night.

"We're able to reconnect a lot more than we would have without this." 

From learning in a classroom setting to online learning is a big jump.- Ethan Marentette, Grade 12 student

Dobson said online learning has been good for her, helping her become a more independent learner.

"Teachers are always there for us making sure we achieve the marks we need for universities," she said. 

LISTEN | Hear more from Dobson and Galipeau about their final year of school:

They are pretty much rites of passage. The high school prom and the graduation ceremony. For grade 12s in Windsor-Essex there will be no proms this spring. How they'll receive their diplomas is unclear.Tony speaks with two graduating students,Kiana Dobson and Marc Galipeau. 8:58

Both Galipeau and Dobson seem to have very clear understandings that while they are missing a lot, they know what it's all for. 

"We really just have to look forward to the future ... we have the rest of our lives. I think that it's really important that we flatten the curve and stay flat," said Galipeau. "We have to keep in mind there are others at risk and we can't risk our lives and those of others because we want to have a prom and I feel like others accept that."

Dobson said she completely agrees. 

Sandwich Secondary student Marc Galipeau, number 23, said he misses sports and going to school. (Submitted by Marc Galipeau)

"We have to realize there are bigger problems at stake and peoples lives are at risk, we have to make sure the safety and health of others are our priority," she said. 

Bianca Loyuk is in Grade 12 at Assumption High School in Windsor and has been trying to make the best of things at home with her three brothers.

"I'm not really used to spending so much time with my siblings and my mom," she said. "My coping mechanisms have been music. I take piano lessons, so I've been immersing myself with different types of genres of music, exploring certain techniques and certain styles."

Loyuk said exams have been cancelled and learning was structured to work toward those. Now she's slowing down.

Bianca Loyuk practises piano in her time away from school, in between her online courses. (Submitted by Duff Piano Studios)

Part of that cancellation and switch to online learning in the province has meant that high school students' marks pre-March have been "locked in," so that if they dip below while students struggle with online learning, they're grades wouldn't suffer. However, grades can improve.

"From learning in a classroom setting to online learning is a big jump," said Ethan Marentette, a Belle River District High School student.

"I've never done it before so it's so different and almost more difficult for me that my marks probably would have went down if they weren't allowed to."

LISTEN | Hear more from Loyuk and Marentette about their confusion over what's next in this pandemic:

No prom, and probably no graduation ceremony either. So what's to celebrate for the high school graduating class of 2020? Tony talks about that with two local grade 12 students. Bianca Loyuk is in grade 12 at Assumption High School in Windsor, Ethan Marentette is in grade 12 at Belle River District High School. 8:45

Apart from academics, the interaction at school is something all four students said they miss most. 

"I miss going on spare with my friends, we were just finally all like getting our G2s and Grade 12 was which kind of the year where we could go out and do things and have lunch," said Marentette. 

"It's been a difficult few months, we're unsure what's going on outside so it makes us more anxious."

Ethan Marentette, left, and his girlfriend Ava Reaume at their 2019 Academic Awards. (Submitted by Ethan Marentette)


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