In It For the Long Run

Seniors bypass early graduation to stick around for another

Evelina Gaivoronskaia | The Chronicle

Mason High School seniors are wrestling with their decision to continue their last year, even though many can already graduate.

Senior Ben Haller was one summer English course away from being able to graduate early but decided to stay for his senior year. Due to COVID, his past high school years lacked important events, like prom or homecoming, so he did not feel right moving on without experiencing them first.

Besides wanting to experience high school to the fullest, Haller also knew he couldn’t leave his club, The Mason Sports Radio, behind just yet. He was part of the Sports Radio team last year but did not get to cover a lot of games. The games he was able to cover “felt flat” due to a lack of fans, leaving the broadcasters to “create [their] own energy.”

“I have a love and passion for broadcasting games, so I wanted to be able to enjoy broadcasting my last few games,” Haller said. “You don’t get as many opportunities because there is more competition for stories. Also, I know that there are higher standards there So I think just being able to cover the number of games we will this year is definitely worth staying.”

Although in years past, Haller would have taken the opportunity to graduate early, he is happy to be here for his final year. Haller discovered that his senior year truly felt special to him. He felt that it would feel wrong to graduate with the people he didn’t grow up with. Graduation is an important moment in life, so when it happens, Haller wants to be surrounded by the same people he was with since first grade.

Senior year is not only about celebrating old friendships, but also forming new ones. Senior Annette Hall noticed that she has “already become so much better friends with so many people [she] wouldn’t know if [she had] graduated early”.

A lot of those connections emerged from marching band. She has been a leader in color guard since her junior year, yet the way she approaches her leadership is different this year. Hall focuses on making connections with people by helping them improve during practices. She ensures that they are able to enjoy the sport that she loves.

“It is my last year,” Hall said. “This is the last chance I have to leave a mark on this program, so I want to create that special bond with all the new people.”

For her, Hall feels like staying in high school for another year enables her to fully prepare for college.

Honors Anatomy and Physiology, for example, was a class she “always wanted to take”, but only had space for it her senior year. She wanted to take the class in high school because high school classes tend to be smaller than college ones. The more intimate learning experience allowed her to understand the material better, so she would be more prepared for her future college classes.

Although at times, Hall wishes she could grow up faster and emerge into her adult life, Hall strives to cherish her last months in high school. Hall believes that sometimes relationships are more important than future prospects and that “you need to live your life in the present instead of trying to rush everything.”

For many, senior year illuminated the quick passage of time and the importance of cherishing every second of it. Senior Nikith Vangala hopes to share some of that wisdom with the underclassmen in his clubs. This year, he is one of the co-captains of the Speech and Debate team with a goal to make sure he gets to know the new people on his team, even if they are not competing in the same events.

“I feel a certain responsibility for the underclassmen,” Vangala said.“I have to be a mentor to them and teach them how high school works. If I left early I would be doing them a disservice.”

Over his high school years, Vangala has developed a strong connection to not only his team but also his classmates. After seeing them every day he feels like “those are [his] people, who [he has] spent so much time with. Even though [he] can still get some closure graduating early, being there with everyone when [he graduates] is really important to [him].”

Vangala sees his younger self in the freshmen around him. He remembers his first Speech and Debate meeting. He was “sitting there, looking at the captains, thinking they were so cool and interesting.” Now, Vangala is up there presenting just like the captains did four years ago. It made him realize how much he has progressed from his freshman year to now.

“Now I am up there presenting,” Vangala said. “It makes me realize how much I have progressed from being a freshman to here.”

Illustration by Allison Droege