High school seniors devastated over cancelled prom, uncertain graduation plans

Updated: Apr. 3, 2020 at 5:33 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The disruption caused by COVID-19 has been incredibly inconvenient for everyone. But for some young adults, the timing of this lockdown has been heartbreaking.

The second semester of senior year is usually full of milestones: senior prom, senior trips, and graduation, just to name a few. But high school seniors across the state and country are missing some of these once-in-a-lifetime memories in an effort to stop the spread of Coronavirus.

Now, as the cancellations have started, local seniors are struggling to accept that for their class, these rites of passage may never happen.

“It’s devastating actually, because I really wanted to go to prom, and just spend time with my friends and experience my senior year,” Laney High School Senior Rachel Muir told WECT.

Like many of her classmates, Muir had already bought a dress, and had been looking forward to senior prom all year. But for the Class of 2020, the corsage, the limo, and the night dancing with friends looks like it won’t be a Cinderella story after all.

“It’s a hard thing to just grasp it being ripped away from us like that,” Laney Senior Nate Hedrick said.

It’s not just the memories from senior prom they will miss. It’s the looming possibility that other big events they’ve worked so hard for may now be out of the question as well.

“Once everything started getting cancelled and postponed and everything, I couldn’t handle it. It was just so much at one time,” Laney Senior Kamryn Ballard said of the tremendous disappointment.

“This is stuff we grow up looking forward to, since we are in elementary school,” Muir added. “This is what we’ve been working towards. This is a moment we will never get to live again.”

Seniors are grappling with the fact that one priceless experience after another may be missing from their book of life.

“Seniors last year and probably seniors to come, they will get their prom, they’ll get their graduation, they’ll get their senior walks around campus,” Hedrick said. “But with [Coronavirus] going around, none of us are going to get that, and we’re just going to have to live with that.”

While graduation hasn’t been canceled yet, these seniors fear it’s imminent. They say getting your diploma in the mail just isn’t the same.

“I really want to walk the stage, and see my family happy and proud,” Senior Alex Rivers shared.

While the disappointment is palpable, the uniquely painful experience of knowing their cap and gown may never get worn in public is making these students wise beyond their years.

"This is a thing we are all going to get through. Just keep moving forward and try your hardest,” Hedrick said.

New Hanover County Schools has yet to announce any decisions about graduation, and at this point, classes are scheduled to resume in May. But school officials have cancelled prom district-wide.

“New Hanover County Schools has informed high school principals to notify families that proms have been cancelled,” NHCS Spokesperson Ann Gibson said. “At this time, all high schools have canceled their proms and families have been notified. NHCS knows this is a difficult decision for everyone, so it was decided that families would be notified by high school staff rather than include the cancellations as part of a district-wide press release.”

Officials tell WECT they used the word “cancelled” because under the circumstances, it is possible they will not be able to reschedule prom, and they didn’t want to give people false hope.

“The district will evaluate end-of-year activities when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and students return to school,” Gibson said.

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