Alcona Senior Nelson French

Like many graduating seniors across the state, Alcona High School seniors are feeling the effects of the stay at home orders, more so this month.

May and June are generally the months for traditional senior proms, cap and gown commencement ceremonies and graduation parties. This year, however, school staff, teachers, family and the community have had to think outside of the box to try and give proper recognition to the graduates.

Brooklynn Pagels, a senior, explained while the stay at home orders are challenging, she truly appreciates what is being done by the school and the community to give her and her classmates their due.

She was recently surprised by her employer, Snyder's Lincoln Pharmacy, who took out a rather large color ad in the Alcona County Review with her photo. The ad also listed the senior’s many accomplishments and future plans.

“I was excited and surprised when I saw it in the paper. It was a great idea and a different way to recognize seniors. I’m very thankful they did that for me. Work even made a larger copy of the ad and put it on the store counter,” Pagels said.

She was glad to hear the school board is entertaining the idea of having an actual graduation ceremony take place on July 24, contingent on safety recommendations, rather than just canceling the whole event or trying to do a virtual ceremony.

She would also like to see a senior prom moved to a date further out, so her class could have one more dance together.

Senior Nelson French said he was disappointed his final year at Alcona High School ended so abruptly.

Earlier in the stay at home orders, after a suggestion from his mom, French made a large sign for his front yard to acknowledge that a 2020 graduate lived there. He challenged other students to make similar signs, which some did, while others purchased signs, something graduating students rarely thought of before this year.

“The sign wasn’t just for recognition, not a lot of people drive down my road to see it. It was more to just give me something to do. I like having a routine every day and going places. This sitting around and waiting has been challenging for me,” French said.

French, an only child, said fighting boredom has been difficult for him during COVID-19 but it was more of an issue when it first began than now since the weather is getting nicer.

He feels the best way to fight boredom is to exercise, which he does daily, and is now taking on odd jobs such as chopping wood.

He explained one traditional event the school has for seniors which he will miss is the loyalty and decision day where graduating seniors announce to their peers what their plans are for the future. French was very excited to tell his peers and teachers he has enlisted in the Army National Guard and is scheduled to leave for boot camp on July 27.

“We just have to do what we can to get through this. It’s not going to last forever. It sucks now, but eventually, we should be back to normal. We need to stay focused on that and stay healthy,” French said.

Senior Courtney Winter was looking forward to celebrating her graduation this month with her three cousins, Annabelle Rowe, Madison Donovan and Faith Calloway -- all graduating this year from Alcona High School.

While the actual ceremony may be delayed, Winter is not putting off making plans for the grand party the four girls had hoped for, although it may be a bit different than traditional parties to keep guests socially distanced.

“We understand some people will not be able to attend the party because of the COVID-19 threat, we may have to limit how many people will be there at a time and how we have the party,” Winter said.

She explained while it was upsetting that plans are so up in the air about when and how things might return to normal, she isn’t upset with how the school and the community have stepped up to try and do everything they can to acknowledge them.

Whether it is through individual lawn signs, ads in the paper, or Facebook acknowledgments of the students, she is happy so many are trying to make it as special as they can.

“The school has been doing Friday night lights where they light up the football field at 20:20 military time,” Winter said. She also spoke about the large banner the school has put up on the lawn listing all the graduating seniors. Similar banners will also be put up in Lincoln and Harrisville.

Not being able to thank teachers before they take their summer break concerned Winter, so she and classmate Brett Nelson reached out to other graduates and decided to post a thank you video.

Winter said nearly all the senior class participated by sending their photo holding up words to convey a message of thanks. The message and the music chosen for the video was a collective decision among the graduates.

While Winter coordinated photos, Nelson pieced them together with the music and posted it on the school’s Facebook page.

According to Winter, if stay at home orders had not happened, the class would have never thought to participate in such a thing, “We collectively wanted to do that to say good-bye,” Winter said.

Winter will be leaving for Cornerstone University on a pole-vaulting scholarship in August and hopes restrictions are a thing of the past by then. Although she was disappointed not to participate in track and field her last year school, she is looking forward to participating at the university.

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