Interview by Rosalie Murphy
Shirrell White is president of the Class of 2020 at Firestone High School. At the beginning of March, she was starting to practice for her senior track season and planning a fundraiser for after-prom. At the end of the month, she was picking up extra hours at Krispy Kreme on Maple Street.
The last two months of senior year are looking less and less like the celebration she’d hoped for.
When Akron Public Schools announced that students would get an “extended spring break” to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, “At first, a lot of us were just like, ‘Oh yeah, we get an extra-long vacation,’” Shirrell says. “But once the week actually started, we started missing friends and worrying about our schoolwork. I’m one of those people who enjoys going to school, so I’m a little shook up right now.
“The seniors were going to have a lot of stuff coming up, like our senior action that we use as a fundraiser for our after-prom. Spring dances, concerts, a lot of different plays — mostly everything that was going to go on through school has been canceled or postponed. The biggest thing that everyone is worried about is prom and graduation,” Shirrell says. Both are less than two months away.
Personally, “I was just excited to be able to run [track] my last year. Our first meet was a week from the day they decided to take us on a 3-week break, so that was pretty devastating. I also have to miss my senior night that I waited so long for. It was just devastating because we had gotten comfortable with our new team, and just like that, we weren’t able to go to practice anymore,” Shirrell says.
In late March, online classes began. Shirrell says students complete work through Google Classroom and occasionally have video lectures. Teachers are available to help via video chat, but Shirrell says it isn’t the same.
“For my major classes, like math and English, it’s a little challenging just because it’s better for a lot of students to learn in person. If you don’t understand something, it’s a lot harder to ask [teachers], rather than you usually being able to ask them face to face, in person.”
In hindsight, Shirrell can already see that her senior year is “going to be so much [more] different than what everybody else has experienced in their high school years. I just hope that I can take it as a lesson, of taking advantage of the moments that I do have during school, and just being able to process everything that happened so quickly. I just hope that it doesn’t take a large toll on me — a lot of us think it will, with everything that’s supposed to be coming up. But I think it’ll just be a way for me cherishing the moment that I did have, the final days of school that we did have together.”
She adds: “Look out for one another, and if there’s a senior that you know, just try to uplift them, because a lot of us are going through it right now… Cherish the moments in school that you do have, and don’t take it for granted, because it could get snatched away from you in the blink of an eye.”
Rosalie Murphy is Editor-in-Chief of The Devil Strip.
Photos: Used with permission from Shirrell White.