By Gianna Martino: 2021. The year that I’ve been looking forward to for as long as I can remember. I imagined starting my senior year with the senior breakfast, a tradition where we would meet in the parking lot before the last first day of school began and where we would share the excitement of being seniors and talk about our expectations. I envisioned getting together and decorating the hallways with my fellow seniors during homecoming week. I pictured me and my friends taking photos in our pretty dresses and dancing together at our last homecoming dance and prom. Most of all, I imagined gathering with my class in the church, receiving our diplomas, and throwing up our graduation caps in celebration, saying goodbye to high school and getting ready for the next chapter in our lives. However, things haven’t gone exactly the way I anticipated.

In March of 2020, our Governor issued a Stay-at-Home Order because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Since the highly contagious disease is still present, this of course raised questions as to how big of an impact it would have on our school. When I returned to Notre Dame this year, things were a lot different. Our school took the all the necessary precautions with everyone wearing masks, desks spaced apart, a new water fountain system, daily temperature checks and other safety measures. While I felt comforted that I was safe, I quickly realized it was much different than years before. We were unable to attend sporting events, special senior activities were cancelled, and there was no homecoming week. This change of pace flipped my world upside down. For years I had dreamt of my perfect senior year, and this is it? I started to believe that there was nothing anyone could do to make this year any better. But being the loving family we are at Notre Dame, we found ways. On Halloween, teachers and faculty put together a fun, socially distanced day full of activities where everyone dressed in costumes, received candy, and danced to music while six feet apart in the school hallways. A few days later, my fellow classmates and I went to the drive- in. Although we sat in separate cars, we communicated over Snapchat and FaceTime so we could feel like we were together.

Notre Dame has handled this crisis well, not only with fun activities, but with our educational needs. These past few months we’ve alternated from online to in person. This seemingly uneasy process, actually went quite smoothly. Teachers make sure we understand the lessons and how to do our assignments, and they have also been checking in on each of us to make sure we are doing okay at home. Whether we are remote learning via zoom or six feet apart while wearing masks in our classroom, our teachers are always there for us. I’m also grateful that they are thinking of new ways to involve seniors more by allowing us to lead prayer over the intercom while at school or via Facebook and Instagram when at home.

I can’t help but look at this as an important life lesson in that things don’t always go according to the plan. I have no idea what the remainder of my senior year has in store, but I do understand that we have all suffered in many different ways during this COVID-19 pandemic. From losing loved ones to not being able to spend time with family and friends. At Notre Dame we are a family, and it has helped us all to share these trying times together. The bonds we form during our senior year used to be enjoyed even more with the senior activities. I personally witnessed my older sister Sophia miss out on many of her senior milestones last year when this terrible pandemic began. Now as I go through my own senior year with my graduating Class of 2021, we also face the same lost experiences. But I realize that we must also not lose sight of some things that we have gained. Our outlook on life has changed our focus. We have been given the opportunity to grow up and see things around us in a whole new way.

At Notre Dame and St Mary’s we’re taught and we know that God is in control. We live this reality and gain strength in knowing him through all the adversities we will face in life and even through a worldwide pandemic. We at Notre Dame can take this truth out into the world and share this strength with others around us.