LCCVI grads missing the milestones

Stephanie Williams poses in her prom dress on the day the LCCVI prom would have been held, if not for COVID-19.

It could have been a picture any one of the 146 LCCVI grads had taken.

Stephanie Williams stood on the porch of her family’s Petrolia home, with the dog, posing for photos in her prom dress. But like so many other Ontario seniors, the dress never made its debut.

The end of the in-class school year also spelled the end to a lot of celebrations for high school graduates. No prom, no tractor day, no track and field meets, no graduation and no face-to-face time with friends who they shared their academic life with.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes,” says Maddie Nemcek, the co-president of student council at LCCVI.

For people like Kevin McGrail – the other co-president – those final moments of competition will be missed. “Just before March Break, there was badminton tryouts and I was looking forward to that.” McGrail had not played in his early high school years and wanted to be on the team this year.

For others, track meets would have been a highlight “A lot of people are there for the social aspect,” says McGrail.

“You don’t have to tryout to be on the track team, and it is a big team, everybody is together and more than anything we’re missing the community aspect of it. We were one big family and everyone is supportive during the meets,” says Nemcek who had been in track before.

It’s hard for Nemcek’s dad to watch. Greg is also the principal of LCCVI and he feels the loss of the senior year keenly. “The kids are very disappointed but were trying to keep them connected” through video conferencing during class time.

And the principal says it is weighing heavily on some students who are having a hard time getting motivated to finish their year.

“We’re just trying to get them across the finish line,” he says.
“For some it is unbelievable and so hard.”

And he says some of the students have added pressures of working in essential services like grocery stores or they’re caring for younger siblings who are also home and learning on line.

But LCCVI is doing its best to mark this important occasion in the seniors’ lives. Nemcek says graduate signs have been ordered and will be delivered to each home so people can see just who is part of the graduating class of 2020. “We’ll put some of them on the lawns of the school in November when we hopefully are able to do grad,” he says. “I want to flood the front lawn of the school.”

Student council is also trying to encourage the seniors, using social media to spark memories of the past four years.

Tractor Day will be marked this year as students from local farms take pictures of themselves beside the tractor they had planned to drive to school for the annual event.

Maddie Nemcek is hopeful something can be planned for prom in future but adds “It’s difficult to open up the closet and look at the prom dress you didn’t get to wear.”
As tough as missing the milestones is, Nemcek and McGrail say seniors are facing other tough choices. The pair say many of their friends are trying to figure out if they’re going to college and university this year.

McGrail has been accepted to Lambton College in the trades but is worried he may end up doing much of the work online.

Nemcek plans to go to university, however many of her friends still haven’t made up their mind. “They’re working through deciding if it is the best move for them and others, they want to start university….

“Some people want to start the next chapter of their lives, no matter what it looks like.”