Angie Mock (far right) holds flowers at her high school's homecoming game. Credit: Courtesy / Angie Mock

It’s been a while since I’ve reflected on the spring of 1981, my senior year of high school. These days, I can’t stop thinking about it. I can hear the songs of REO Speedwagon blaring from the 8-track tape player in my best friend Melanie’s powder blue Volkswagen Rabbit. I hear the dribbling of a basketball and the squeaking of tennis shoes as I stand on the sidelines, cheering on my classmates in a red, white, and blue cheerleading uniform. I remember the shock of icy cold water as we plunged into the lake on Senior Skip Day.

I relive the scene of sitting in the principal’s office with Ricky and Tracy. After weeks of leaving school to eat lunch at the local Golden Corral, we were finally caught. The principal offered the option of a two-day suspension or two “licks” from the vice principal, a former Buffalo Bills defensive tackle. Despite his towering size, I took the licks. There was no way I wanted to be away from my friends for two whole days of my senior year. 

For my high school senior son, Cooper, two weeks away from school and friends has turned into two months. He likely will never again walk the halls of Central Catholic High School with classmates, a loss he is only beginning to comprehend and probably won’t fully understand for months, if not years to come. 

Angie Mock (right) with her son, Cooper, when he received his class ring last year. Credit: Courtesy / Angie Mock

I tell myself to snap out of it. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying. People are worried about how they will feed their families. I know this all too well, as the organization I lead serves over 7,000 families in some of San Antonio’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Our team has been working tirelessly to provide our families with food, snacks, toiletries, and help to cope with financial and emotional distress. The reality of the COVID-19 crisis on our city’s most vulnerable is gut-wrenching. 

Yet in the quiet hours of the night, after I’ve closed my laptop, my thoughts often return to my son and the Class of 2020. Only a month ago, April and May were filled with such promise for our high school seniors. The promise of prom, the promise of a final game, performance, or competition, the promise of throwing graduation caps in the air, the promise of family celebrations, and the promise of becoming an adult in a world of relative certainty and abundant opportunity.

Sadness is unfolding in much worse ways every single day, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the sadness our high school seniors feel and encourage them to talk about it. I asked some of the seniors I have known for many years what their thoughts were on being a senior during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s hard because this should be the time we spend cherishing the relationships we’ve built with our classmates before a lot of us part ways.”

Alex Fernandez, Alamo Heights High School

“Being a senior at a time like this is difficult and sad. This was supposed to be the time to make your last high school memories with your friends.”

Lourdes Pacheco, Incarnate Word High School

“Second semester senior year is that envied, movie-like part of high school that everyone looks forward to, so to have this essentially taken away from us is pretty upsetting.”

Charlie Eguia, Alamo Heights High School

“I was pretty disappointed to hear that I had already experienced my last day of high school without realizing it, however, I am grateful to have the ability to stay safe at home.”

Sofia Quintanilla, International School of Americas

Most of the Class of 2020 was born in the months before or shortly after 9/11. It was a new normal for their parents, but these young people grew up knowing life with ongoing terrorist attacks, long airport lines, and increased national surveillance. Now they will leave high school with a new normal. They will be forever changed. 

High school graduation is a cherished rite of passage, a milestone not just for the graduates but also for their parents. We should give our seniors and their loved ones the grace to be sad about the Class of 2020’s losses.

Like Julius Caesar once wrote, “experience is the teacher of all things.” The Class of 2020 is having an experience like no other class before them. What they will learn remains to be seen, but if history is any indication, great leaders emerge from dark times. The Class of 2020 will make incredible contributions to society because of their unique experience.  And that brings a smile to this mother’s face.

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Angie Mock

Angie Mock has been CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio for the last eight years. A Tennessee native, Angie and her family have called San Antonio home since 2003. Prior to moving to San Antonio,...