Senior Kai Mehra was supposed to play the lead role of Sweeney Todd in his last musical before graduating. Junior Joanna Baker was supposed to go to the World Championship for Robotics and continue showcasing Grady’s Chairman’s presentation. Junior Jackson Sexton was supposed to get scouted for track and field.
But when the number and severity of COVID-19 cases in Georgia continued to increase and schools began to close, extracurricular activities had no choice but to follow suit. Many students were left feeling powerless.
“I cried,” Baker said. “I was so upset. I had to leave class because it just hurt so much. I was kind of expecting it to happen at some point, but I was really hoping that it would somehow push through.”
For seniors, that feeling of hopelessness is magnified because this is the last year they will participate in high school extracurriculars.
“Being a senior while this is happening is sad as there is not a “next year” for us,” Mehra said. “It is also sad not to be able to do things as a senior class for the last time. I wish there could have been a more satisfying conclusion to my senior year, but I am happy with everything I have done so far.”
In activities like robotics and theater, all efforts culminate into one big event, meaning the entire second semester is filled with hard work. For instance, the cast of “Sweeney Todd” participated in 24 rehearsals, with each lasting around three to five hours, before the show was postponed indefinitely.
“I know for all of the principals, we have put in many hours at home practicing,” Mehra said. “Mr. Dreiling, Mr. Brandhorst and Mr. Hill dedicated much of their time as well into this show. All in all, many people have put tons of hours into this show.”
For the Robotics team, the primary competition it was working toward was the World Championship. Students logged countless hours in the shop working on various aspects of the robot. Baker spent almost every day after school either working on outreach programs or practicing the presentation for the Chairman’s award: the most prestigious award given at each level of competition that measures how well each team gives back to the community.
“Basically, this is what we spent the entire year preparing for, especially the second semester,” Baker said. “Having everything just be shut down so abruptly was really difficult. This is what everything leads up to, as a team, for us. “
Sexton began training for the track season in early January. He hoped not only to compete in the sport he loves but also to capture the attention of college scouts. He’s still optimistic that the season will resume when students return to school, but he fears the season might be over.
“I was shocked that there would be no sports at all for an extended period of time, let alone one that I enjoyed,” Sexton said. “Scouting for me at least hasn’t really happened yet, and this season would have been the most important in terms of college recruiting. But I still have hope that I’ll be able to compete over the summer and have good enough times for a college to look at.”
Despite the cancellations and uncertainty, students are choosing to remain optimistic. They don’t think all of their hard work was in vain. Baker and the Robotics team can showcase their robot at outreach events in the future. Mehra can sing his solos for his friends and family. Sexton can continue running. These students recognize that, in this uncharted territory, they have no choice but to adapt.
“I want people to recognize how much work they have put in and to feel proud of that,” Mehra said. “While the final game, competition or show might be canceled, the work they have put in during the process is worth applauding. I also want people to recognize the commitment of their adult leaders and to thank them for their work.”