JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
The year 2020 for many high school seniors brought promises of spending time with friends, prom, and graduation.
That is until most schools closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“It feels disappointing,” said Radford High School senior, Raymond Beisner. “We were going to have fly in for both my graduation and my dad’s retirement.”
Fellow 2020 classmate, Hannah Bethard, shares Beisner’s sentiment.
“It definitely feels strange graduating this year,” she said. “I’m the third of four kids, I’ve been to both my older brothers’ graduations, always looking forward to my own. This is definitely not what I pictured.”
Gabriella Ross, also a Radford High School senior, said she feels sad about missing her graduation.
“I can’t have a graduation party like I wanted to and my friends and family members from the mainland can’t come to Hawaii,” said Ross. “I also don’t know what I’m going to do yet for my birthday, because my birthday is in June.”
Although Radford High School will not hold a traditional graduation ceremony, graduates will receive their diplomas in a drive-thru fashion and the school will provide a video afterward.
Bethard, Beisner, and Ross, who are all military children, are accustomed to plans being changed.
“I can see how COVID affects us similarly to a military lifestyle,” said Bethard. “We’re used to having rules and regulations in place by the government and used to plans changing so quickly.”
“I think every military child has had a situation where we’ve had to miss important events,” Bethard continued. “It comes with the territory. Even from a young age, moves or promotion ceremonies cause us to miss friends, birthdays, or school events.”
Dawn Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff spouse, shared a Facebook post April 20, that stated COVID-19 provides a taste of what military families go through to most of the world. The post highlighted the fact that many plans are changed, holidays cannot be celebrated as preferred, and families cannot be visited due to the military lifestyle.
The post concludes with, “In the end, it will all be ok. Even with tragedy here and there. You will be stronger in the end of this journey. You will not be able to see it in the storm. You’ll feel weak, defeated, and not sure how you can make it. When it’s over and the storm ends, you’ll stand taller, stronger, more capable, and appreciative of what you have.”
Each of the seniors have advices for members of their graduating class.
“Good luck to all of my friends and do well in college,” said Ross.
Beisner advises his fellow seniors to not be discouraged by the way this year ended.
“My advice is to try and not let your excitement dim from it would’ve otherwise been,” said Bethard. “We’ve worked for this for so many years, the end goal that we’ve all been dreaming of. It’s more than okay to feel bummed, so don’t feel guilty for how you feel—just don’t forget to celebrate yourself too.”
Although Bethard wonders what it would have been like to have a graduation ceremony like her brothers’, she will have a unique story to tell in the future.
“I think I’ll tell my future kids and grandkids that it was a wild time, but also how cool it was to have so many people of so many ages doing their best to help us celebrate this milestone in our lives,” she said.
Ross agreed she will share her experiences with her future children and grandchildren.
Beisner, who is moving to Colorado to attend the University of Northern Colorado as a psychology major, is spending his time studying for Advanced Placement tests, getting ready for college, and playing with circuit simulations.
Bethard, who is heading to the University of Texas at San Antonio to study psychology and criminal justice, is also getting ready for college, finishing up last minute school projects, and taking advantage of her free time to focus on hobbies, like art, that she didn’t have time for while in school.
Ross, who will attend Kapi’olani Community College to study the Physical Therapist Assistant Program, plans to become an athletic trainer after college. She spends her time doing homework and working at the Commissary.