GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Students from Vilseck High School graduated on June 6, 2020, with hopes for their future amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want to commend us for how optimistic, resilient and unwavering we all have been throughout this process,” said Vilseck High School Class President Hassanatou Balde.
Vilseck High School, located on U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria Rose Barracks, transitioned to an online-only learning style on March 16, 2020, as a result of COVID-19 and the preventative measures brought on by the Bavarian government.
“It was tough trying to stay positive about everything — knowing that my prom got canceled,” said Eva Bender, a Vilseck High graduate. “I didn’t get to walk the halls, or have lunch with my friends anymore.”
While physical distancing and face-coverings were mandatory, students say they were glad they could attend an in-person ceremony. The graduation was held within the school gymnasium; furthermore, only graduating students and faculty were allowed inside. Faculty recorded the graduation ceremony, and a live Facebook event was hosted for the graduating students’ family and friends to view from a distance.
“Being out of school and having to do everything online was really tough for me,” added Bender. “I am very grateful to at least have a ceremony, even though my family and friends can’t be here.”
Amidst the sadness from all the missed high school experiences, Balde owned the hindering experience that COVID-19 caused.
“Since we lost a third of our senior year to corona, I thought it’d be empowering for us to reclaim the word and make it our own,” said Balde, as she addressed her classmates in a speech. “C for committed, O for optimistic, R for resilient, O for open-hearted, N for noble and A for above any other class. We are the ‘Class of CORONA,’ and we are powerful.”
Moving forward, the new graduates have exciting plans and maintain high hopes for their futures. According to the school administration, many will be attending college and a few are enlisting in the military.
“I am planning on majoring in art education and minoring in German language,” Bender said.
“I plan on attending Kansas State University and majoring in nursing,” said graduate Jordan Leighty. “As a graduate, I feel amazing. I’m excited about all the upcoming opportunities as a young adult. I can’t wait to start my new life.”