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Class of 2021 has been defined by pandemic

One year ago, high school seniors had much of their final semester ripped away from them by the coronavirus pandemic. Proms, senior nights and even graduation ceremonies were flipped upside down and sometimes canceled entirely as the community grappled with a global health crisis.

A year later, the Class of 2021 has become a generation defined by COVID-19. This year’s seniors have had every element of their final year of high school impacted by the pandemic.

The coronavirus has taken away many of the traditions every senior looks forward to, but it’s also made every moment of the senior year that much more precious.

One member of this 2021 COVID generation is Olivia Trimble.

Trimble, 18, is a senior at Buckingham County High School. She currently serves as president of the Student Council Association (SCA).

A Buckingham native through and through, Trimble was a junior when the pandemic struck Virginia last March, eventually shutting down schools across the state.

“It was kind of surprising,” she said, recalling the school closures. “I didn’t really think it was going to be as big of a deal as it is now.”

After an abrupt end to her junior year, Trimble spent the summer masked up and working at James River Reeling & Rafting, a canoe and kayak rental service in Scottsville.

Like her classmates, she watched month after month as experts attempted to predict when the virus would subside and things might go back to normal again.

By the start of her senior year, things were nowhere close to normal. Thus began a very unorthodox fall semester of online learning.

“The fall semester was definitely a challenge because it was all virtual,” she said.

Trimble describes herself as a studious person, and while she was able to keep her grades up throughout the semester, keeping pace with classwork was much more of a struggle. Time management became a big factor in her studies, and it took a while to adjust to doing a lot of work at home.

A Governor’s School student, she was recently able to return to in-person hybrid learning for her spring semester. 

Like many seniors, Trimble has been heavily impacted by the effects of the pandemic. In fact, not many areas of her life went untouched.

Previously, the high schooler played volleyball for six years. She’s also been playing soccer since she was 4. When spring arrived last year, a knee injury prompted Trimble to try her hand at tennis.

“That obviously got cut short,” she said.

Trimble had hopes for a better chance at athletics during her fall semester, but those were dashed as well.

“We didn’t get to have any spring or winter sports at all, so we completely missed out on our homecoming,” she said.

Trimble said some parents of the high school volleyball team did come together to arrange for a volleyball senior night at a local church gym, a gesture that meant a lot to her.

After graduating, Trimble hopes to study neuroscience in order to one day become a research scientist who specializes in working with the brain. Last spring, Trimble had hoped to do an internship at Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville, but the pandemic put a stop to that, too.

Even the college application process was not untouched by the coronavirus. Although she took the SATs in December of 2019, she, like many seniors, opted not to include her test scores in any of her college applications.

Trimble’s junior prom was canceled last year due to the coronavirus. She said she’s heard that senior prom this year may be held virtually, but with Zoom burnout from months of online learning, she’s not sure she will attend.

Even friendships have been impacted as a result of the coronavirus.

“I definitely don’t talk to my friends as much, and I don’t really reach out to them as much as I would have in school,” Trimble said. “We don’t talk as much.”

Missing all of the staples of senior year has been disheartening for a student so involved in her school and community.

“I just miss getting to go to the football games and working the concession stands, and you know, like, senior basketball games, and I miss seeing the senior nights.”

Last year, Buckingham was able to hold a socially distanced graduation ceremony for students. The high school made a special effort to make sure the Class of 2020 was acknowledged with things like senior picture banners hung around the Town of Dillwyn, and seniors were able to paint their handprints on a large chunk of kyanite.

Trimble said she hopes the Class of 2021 will be able to see a semi-traditional graduation ceremony this spring.

“I really want to see my class as a whole one last time, so I hope we can do something where I will get to see everyone.”

With COVID-19 cases on the downtrend and vaccination rates soaring, Trimble is hopeful that a brighter future is in store.

Being part of the pandemic era’s Class of 2021 has taught her many lessons, including time management and how to think outside of the box. She’s also learned it’s important to set aside time for oneself.

“When you can, enjoy the moment,” she said.