Senior year in many ways came to an unexpected halt for the Class of 2020 a week before their final Spring Break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There would be no prom or graduation as planned, no final group pictures or parties with friends. In light of this, we asked some members of this group of Vestavia Hills High School students to share their reflections addressed to their classmates as they wrapped up their high school careers from at-home quarantine. Our editors recommend you have Kleenexes on hand to read on.
From the Class of 2020 Director of Graduation
Dear Class of 2020,
Martin Luther King once said, “There can be no disappointment where there is not deep love.” When people would ask me if I was ready for school to be over before this pandemic, my immediate response would be, “I can’t wait to get out of here and be in Auburn.” As a senior,
every day of school seemed to last an eternity, and I would count the minutes leading up to that final bell. I did not appreciate all the little moments of laughter with my school mates. I took for granted the love and dedication my teachers put into every single lesson. If this pandemic has taught me one thing, it is that there is deep love rooted in Vestavia Hills High School.
Our school is so unique in its atmosphere. There is a genuine love that ties us all together; the deep disappointment that we have all felt throughout this experience proves this to be true. Being apart has shown us the bonds and unlikely friendships we have formed and grown to miss. Although this situation is disappointing, it has made clear how special and valuable our high school experience was. I have gone from counting the days until school was over to looking forward to our Google Hangouts.
Class of 2020, while you may not have gotten to nervously exchange corsages with your prom date, or suffer through that awkward small talk at the pre-prom dinner with the boy from your forensics class, or focus on not falling flat on your faces in front of thousands as you walk across to shake hands with Dr. Burgess, there are so many experiences that we DID get to have like:
– Winning the Toga Pep Rally
– Friday night lights with your best friends
– Going to playoffs for football
– Getting on the news for starting a petition for no school the day after Halloween (We’re basically all famous!)
– Winning the Powderpuff game
– Homecoming Week
– Sadie Hawkins
– $56,575 for Ady’s Army
– Hiding the Spirit Stick (Does anyone know where it is?)
– Losing our voices at Wallace State
– Outshining Mountain Brook’s student section at every game
– Seeing a new face in the hallway every day
There are disappointments because of this, we can’t deny that. But these disappointments have brought us closer than ever. Let’s lean on each other and come out on the other side stronger. Life will get better, and, just think, one day we will be a part of our child’s history textbook.
My final message, seniors, is this: Do not let this disappointment take away all of the happy times we had together as 1Rebel. We started this journey together 13 years ago, and we will end it together through many facetime calls, Google Hangouts, and hopefully a super delayed and proud walk across that stage. I know that my love for Vestavia Hills High School and the people it holds has only grown stronger through this. We are a family. We are 1Rebel.
From the Senior Class President
Dear Class of 2020,
I knew that when I became class president I would get to write a graduation speech, so I decided to start writing it at the start of the year and add to it as the year went on. Looking back on what I had written, I realize that so many things have changed for us, and the old speech is no longer relevant.
I am sitting here today, a day that was meant to be RISE day, thinking of the things we might have been robbed of. Spring break plans were canceled, spring sports have been canceled, and players won’t get to play their last game. We might not get to walk at graduation, senior trips are being called off, and prom would have been this very weekend, yet no one is getting ready for it.
This isn’t easy. Not everyone understands how this has affected us, and not everyone will understand. My family keeps asking if I am okay; they try to avoid topics like my senior trip or my senior lacrosse season. But they don’t realize I am a part of a very special class, the class of 2020, and there is nothing in this world that could shake that foundation.
The coronavirus has taught me to not take things for granted and has shown me that the bonds I have built with my classmates cannot be broken by this virus. Because of my classmates and the friendships I have built with my peers over the past four years, I am not sad about the way this year ended. That may not make sense right off the bat, but let me explain what I mean by that.
The class of 2020 creates history. We created the best toga pep-rally the school has ever seen. We created an atmosphere at the school that welcomed everyone and respected everyone. We were a key element in creating RISE and supporting our peers who are fighting or have fought cancer. We created Division 1 athletes, amazing leaders, amazing people, and we even created four military academy commits, which is the most from one class in Vestavia history.
The things that our grade has accomplished won’t be forgotten, and although our time at the school may have been cut short, the class of 2020 set a standard for the next generation of Rebels, and I am proud to be a part of it. That is why I am not heartbroken that our time is over. What we have accomplished in high school will now be carried into colleges all over the nation. Good luck next year wherever you may go, and remember once a rebel always a rebel.
From the RISE Chairs
Dear Class of 2020,
As we wrap up our final RISE season, we would like to extend the greatest thank you to all of you who decided to join us in the fight against cancer. For us and many others, RISE has been an all-year event, but no matter how hard we worked, it would not be possible without the help from all of you. We are certain that none of this would have come to fruition if it wasn’t for the Class of 2020’s enthusiasm and support in creating and helping continue this incredible organization. Working for something bigger than ourselves has changed us more than any amount of money could.
It has been an honor to be so involved in something that the whole school and community rallies behind and is so passionate about. We understand how hard it is not to get to experience our last RISE day together, but we should not be quick to forget all of the wonderful memories and the impact we made together. Thank you for all the support over the past four years, and we hope you all will continue to serve others. You all have truly been and forever will be the best friends. Thank you for Being the Difference in so many ways.
Go Rebels, Go RISE!
Sarah Beth Corona, Emma Leggett, John Ingram & Hunter Smyth
From the VHHS Principal
Dear Senior Class 2020,
Each year I write a letter for our seniors “Dear Senior Class ____,” that appears in the yearbook and I read the letter to you, our graduates, prior to the graduation ceremony as we sit together, you in your blue caps and gowns and me on stage, together in an empty arena. It’s a nice moment to share with you before you leave.
This year we will not be able to share this brief little moment, and it ranks low on the list of memorable moments that we will not have, or at least traditionally have, with our Class of 2020 due to a global pandemic and international quarantine during the last months of your senior year.
I hope that each of you knows that in no way does this change our memories of you and our appreciation for not only how you have grown, learned, led, celebrated, and championed high school, but for how you have handled the unique circumstances and challenges this senior year has presented. To make the yearbook edit timeline, I usually write this letter in early spring, and it would have looked different because of our current times, but it still holds value for the true sentiments of love and encouragement I have for you. I hope to get to read it to you in person at a ceremony in our near future, but only time will determine that.
And now for the words I wrote early in the spring: You have been wonderful, a true pleasure to work with! You enjoy one another and embrace your circumstances with peace and gratitude. As Vestavia Hills Rebels, you have experienced much success and been fortunate to celebrate the wins, grieve through the losses, and lean on one another to get to the end of high school in a good way, together. Flipping through your yearbook down the road, you will recall these memories. The facts will be fuzzy and the stories will grow more fantastic, but the relationships you have made with one another will be the most memorable.
You have been a strong leadership class, full of the Rebel Spirit! I can honestly say I witnessed a “first” seeing you lend your energy and volume to support others, remarkably when you helped your band and sophomore friends capture the spirit stick in consecutive pep rallies! You have left a positive indelible mark on our school community of Vestavia Hills.
As your principal, I truly hope you have created lasting happy moments at VHHS. As teachers, we know you will not remember every detail, lesson, fact, equation, and literary device. But we hope the skills and character you leave us with will carry you forward to find success in pursuing your passions in life ahead. You each take with you, and have been a part of creating, the Rebel Edge. You are hardworking, prepared, confident, and compassionate graduates. You are Vestavia Hills Rebels. We are proud of you; we love you, and we hope life blesses each of you with joy and success. Congratulations and remember, “Once a Rebel, always a Rebel.”
With love and gratitude,
Tyler N. Burgess, Ed.D.