It’s no secret that senior year of high school can be difficult. Students are keeping up with schoolwork and extracurricular activities, making decisions about college and life after high school and preparing to leave home, often while maintaining a job. Today’s seniors have the added difficulties of navigating life during a pandemic. Still, they find lots to celebrate and enjoy this special time.
Austin Brown is a senior and football player at North Augusta High School. He especially enjoys being a role model to younger students.
“It’s a little overwhelming, but it’s fun,” he said. “I remember when I was a freshman and getting advice from older students. Now, it feels like all the underclassmen are looking up to me. I get to be the player that helps somebody and motivates them to be better.”
At Midland Valley, James Hutto also enjoys some of the benefits that come with having three years of high school behind him. He is dual enrolled and is taking college-level English 101.
“I’m very familiar with the faculty and staff now, and I feel like I can go up to teachers I’ve had in the past when I need some help,” he said. “I just had an essay due for English 101, and I went to a prior English teacher who gave me a lot of guidance.”
As someone who loves to perform, Logan McCaskill is enjoying senior year at Midland Valley.
“I got a band leadership position, so I get to be a big dog in the band, so to speak. I lead show choir and concert chamber choir and lead the worship team and get to sing in church,” Logan said. “That’s a big deal for me. I’ve been waiting on that and working toward it for a while.”
As with many parents, Austin’s mother has some mixed feelings about senior year.
“There’s a lot of excitement for me,” Adrienna Gibbs Brown said. “Seeing the joy on his face and knowing it’s almost over does relieve some pressure. The time is drawing near for college, though, and it’s bittersweet. I want this for him, but as a parent I don’t want him to leave.”
James is the the youngest of three boys, so the prospect of going to college isn’t as tough for his mother, Rachel Hutto.
“Thankfully, I’ve been through this before,” Rachel said. “Oh, it was difficult the first time; I even got put on antidepressants. I’m very excited for James, though, to leave home and go have those experiences.”
Logan’s mother, Sarah McCaskill West, says she has been struggling with the thought of him leaving home.
“The most difficult thing I’m dealing with is having to let go,” Sarah said. “Just the thought of him being grown up enough to leave to go to school is tough. I’ve been struggling with it for over a year. He’s definitely capable. It’s more a matter of me being able to say I need to back off.”
Still, though, Sarah is happy for Logan and knows college will be a great experience.
“I am ready to watch him spread his wings,” she said. “It’s bittersweet, but more than that, it’s exciting. I think about all the fun I had, and I want him to have those experiences.”
Before the seniors go to college they have to get through their last year of high school, and that often boils down to time management.
Austin plays varsity football and is in the Beta Club and Titans of Omega youth program that focuses on community service. He also works at Beamie’s restaurant in Augusta. Adrienna says he’s balancing it well because Austin is focused on keeping his GPA up, even though he already has qualified for a Palmetto Fellows scholarship.
“It definitely gets tiring,” Austin admits. “I just have to remember to pace myself and get one thing done at a time. I always try to stay focused on the most immediate task.”
In addition to band, chorus and show choir, Logan is dual enrolled and juggling college classes.
“Being a senior, it’s hard to get your ducks in a row and stay motivated,” he said. “Realizing where you need to focus is a hard thing. But it can be done. It just takes time.”
Logan said his primary focus is academics, but he encourages all high school students to get involved in something they enjoy, whether it’s sports, music, art or anything else.
“You meet a lot of like-minded people, and it’s a nice way to have fun after focusing on academics all day,” he said.
James agrees and says being involved has made him a better student.
“The most important thing I’ve learned – and I learned it back in middle school – is to be involved in clubs,” James said. “I’m in marching band, and so is the majority of my friend group. People might wonder say it’s better to study and focus more on academics, but my band friends hold me accountable for schoolwork.”
Many Class of 2020 seniors had a very different experience, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Proms, football games, concerts and senior events were canceled. Graduations took place virtually and in drive-throughs. Even though many restrictions have been relaxed, COVID’s effect is still being felt.
“To know that we could lose all our starters on game day because of COVID is very challenging, but a lot of underclassmen are stepping up and getting chances they might not get normally,” said Austin, a wide receiver for North Augusta. “I also worry about having to quarantine and do virtual learning. I feel like missing school puts you behind, and you have to try twice as hard to keep up. It’s hard knowing you can be doing everything right and might still get quarantined.”
COVID is a challenge for Logan, who will have to audition for college programs in choral studies. Part of the process involves inviting college choral directors to concerts and performances.
“It’s really disappointing because we aren’t having the performances to invite them to,” he said. “We couldn’t have band camp because of COVID and we haven’t been able to put together a marching band show because people are always being quarantined.”
COVID has brought a lot of uncertainty, which James cites as his biggest concern.
“You don’t even know what’s going to happen next week,” he said. “Will there be a full class or six people? Will I have to go home and do virtual class? It’s a lot to think about.”
Regardless of the challenges of COVID or anything else, his mother is excited.
“This is what we’ve spent 18 years working for,” Rachel said. “We’ve worked hard to get to the point where he can spread his wings and fly. Sure, it’s scary, but it’s more exciting to know he will meet new people and have wonderful experiences.”
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