By Anne Thiselton-Dyer, Staff Writer
// For high school seniors, the end of the school year is the last time they can celebrate their successes and hard work together before going their separate ways. Instead of partying with friends, this year’s seniors are confined to their houses to celebrate their high school accomplishments. However, Acalanes High School has adapted and found alternative ways to mark the end of an era for the class of 2020.
Acalanes seniors, their families, and many teachers tuned into the virtual Time of Reflection Zoom on May 17, which aimed to recognize seniors’ accomplishments despite the restrictions posed by social distancing measures.
The annual event typically takes place at the Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church; although seniors and their families could not physically attend the event this year, performers still sang and gave speeches in real-time in the Acalanes Performing Arts Center (PAC).
The event featured student speakers including seniors Kat Gunn, Madison Risch, Sabrina Lin, Anna McCarthy, and Lauren Westergren, whose speeches addressed the ups and downs of high school and the sadness that many seniors are experiencing by missing the end of their final year.
Seniors Hannah Hoffman and Cole Swensen performed a rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, and Stephanie Liu and Mila Mathias performed a duet of Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up”.
“You Raise Me Up is super appropriate since in my experience, our class has been insanely supportive of each other and that’s what’s allowed us to be so great,” Liu said.
While the student speakers and performers were selected through an audition process, the senior class voted for the two staff speakers, Digital Design teacher Chris Busse and English teacher Erin Barth, who gave encouraging words to the class of 2020 and advice for life after high school.
“After all of the stress and sadness that I’ve gathered from students during Zooms and through emails since we’ve been sheltering in place, I felt like students needed to hear that we are going to be okay and that we are learning a lot about ourselves that will help us in the future,” Barth said.
The program also included senior Jordan Pratt’s video “Change Makers of the Future”, which highlighted the accomplishments of different women in the senior class.
Senior Class President Riley Nicosia created a senior reflection video that played at the end of the event. The video featured footage from events throughout the school year such as rallies, sports games and senior nights, homecoming, senior breakfast, and much more. Nicosia explained that she began filming the video at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year and finished it with the help of some of her peers.
“I also had some help for a few others towards the end who had footage because I couldn’t film everything from the whole year due to the pandemic,” Nicosia said.
The virtual Time of Reflection resulted in a different experience for both the performers and the viewers.
“There were a couple people in the PAC, so it wasn’t like I had no audience at all. It was still weird though, knowing that people were at home watching me in their living rooms,” Liu said.
Participants still managed to show their support for the graduating class through the Zoom discussion box. Spectators cheered on the speakers and performers with encouraging comments throughout the program.
Although the seniors couldn’t have a traditional Time of Reflection with in-person speeches, performances, and an audience, many seniors appreciated that they could still reflect on their time at Acalanes.
“Never forget the times you have had here and the people you met because one day, you will look back and realize these truly were the good old days,” Nicosia said.