Pandemic left graduating high school seniors no time to say goodbye

POMP AND CHANGED CIRCUMSTANCE: Buncombe County high school senior Eligh Ros is wrapping his mind around a very different graduation than he and his peers had imagined. Photo courtesy of Ros

While students of all ages have faced social and learning challenges as a result of COVID-19 school closures, the situation is particularly poignant for high school seniors who are missing out on prom and other milestones as they prepare to head into an uncertain future. 

Eligh Ros, a dual-enrollment 12th grader at Martin L. Nesbitt Jr. Discovery Academy, is on track to graduate as part of the class of 2020 with both a high school diploma and some college credit from A-B Tech. Early this spring, he was busy with classes and multiple club activities, his sights set on studying computer science or engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York in the fall when he suddenly found his life upended by Gov. Roy Cooper’s March 14 executive order to close schools.

“The saddest thing was that there was just so little warning,” he recalls. “It progressed so quickly. … There wasn’t a lot of time, especially for seniors, to say goodbye. It was just such an instant thing.”

In addition to missing out on prom and other senior-year celebrations, Ros says he and many of his college-bound classmates have feared falling behind with their studies, particularly in math and science, due to the limitations of online instruction. And being isolated from peers and teachers has them struggling to stay focused on their goals.  

“I think when you’re in your room, and all you have is just a computer with some due dates on it, it’s even harder to stay motivated,” he says. “I think that especially has affected a lot of people mentally as well as the thought of just not knowing what the future holds, whether we’ll be able to start college in the fall. That stuff just really has a heavy effect on people.”

This article is part of COVID Conversations, a series of short features based on interviews with members of our community during the coronavirus pandemic in Western North Carolina. If you or someone you know has a unique story you think should be featured in a future issue of Xpress, please let us know at


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