By ZOE GARDERET
Published May 20, 2020
In two weeks, the Class of 2020 will head to the Laguna Seca racetrack to say a final goodbye to high school, facing a mix of emotions as their four years come to a close.
COVID-19 has made the already scary process of leaving one’s childhood home even more uncertain, but most Carmel High seniors are embracing the strange times and setting their sights on the future.
“I’m ready and excited to move on,” says Natalia Miller, who plans to attend Boston University beginning in January. “I’ve always wanted to be in a lively area with a lot of opportunities and experiences. I like the fast-paced vibe that a city brings that I can’t find here.”
For Miller, sheltering in place has helped her become more ready for college.
“I’m more independent and finding comfort in being alone,” she says. “I think that sense of being happy with who I am has prepared me more for the future.”
A change of scenery is exactly what Kieren Daste has in mind too, but unlike Miller, he’ll need his passport. Daste looks forward to studying at the University of St Andrews in Fife, Scotland, working towards a degree in economics or international relations and continuing education in Europe, with the ultimate goal of doing intelligence work in the military.
“I know I want to apply my studies to an actual military job,” Daste says. “Getting higher education after college expands the palette of information I can use in intelligence work.”
Like many seniors, Daste is struggling with the idea of shipping off to a new life, whenever it may happen. He’s no stranger to the idea of moving, though, having lived in four countries and having moved 12 separate times.
“It’s a big deal, but it’s nothing I haven’t done before,” Daste notes. “The idea of exploring untouched opportunity is keeping me from feeling more sad about leaving.”
Daste has found himself reflecting on the legacy he and the rest of the graduating class will leave behind.
“I never shied away from anything I wanted to do,” he says. “There’s so much to remember but nothing to regret. If high school was a person, I’d shake its hand and say thank you and farewell.”
Some seniors, like Nathan White, are pursuing alternate options to a four-year college track. White has wanted to join the Marine Corps for as long as he can remember—he enlisted in 2019 and will leave for boot camp July 27.
“It kind of feels like a calling,” he says. “I feel a mix of being ready to go and some nerves because it’s definitely a unique experience.”
Unlike many students’ plans, White’s decision and his training has hardly been impacted by the virus.
“We still [train] every Wednesday and, for my squad, Thursdays and Saturdays too,” White says. “Everything is just carrying on as normal.”
Other 2020 soon-to-be graduates, like Ava Weiman and Izzy DeVor, look forward to a lifestyle closer to home next year, staying on the peninsula and spending more time with family.
“I’ll be living in an Airstream, camping out in Big Sur for a year and learning how to fish, garden and live off the land,” DeVor says. “My whole extended family lives out there so my mom and I had been wanting to move to Big Sur for a while, and this crisis kind of solidified it.”
Known at CHS for her musical talents, DeVor wants to take time to explore her own interests for the future and possibly pursue a singing career.
“I’ve been realizing that I might have been overidentifying myself with music,” she says. “I want to take this gap year to figure out if this is really what I want to do, rather than limiting myself to one thing.”
Weiman, on the other hand, is studying at Monterey Peninsula College for two years before transferring—though she doesn’t know where yet, the education plan she will follow at MPC guarantees entry into University of California and California State University schools, which she sees as a safety net.
“I know some kids want to leave their hometown as soon as they finish high school, but I never felt that,” Weiman says. “I also have a job here working for my parents so I have income to help pay for college.”
Weiman explains that the COVID-related restrictions are a blessing in disguise, adding that although leaving high school felt abrupt, it helped her transition and create her own routine outside of school. Reflecting on her time at CHS, she adds that if she could say one thing to her younger self, it would be to relax more.
“I would tell myself that it’s not a big deal if you don’t do great on one test,” she notes. “Enjoy high school while it lasts because it doesn’t last long. It went by fairly quickly.”
Looking back at his four years, Daste recalls one fond memory of the class: last year’s Powderpuff game loss.
“I remember the juniors chanting, ‘Two and oh, two and oh,’ because we had lost both years,” Daste says. “But we all started chanting it back, just embracing it and making fun of a bad situation. That moment showed the true spirit of our class and how we deal with disappointment.”
And so, as this eclectic group of seniors quite literally prepares to cross the finish line on June 3, they confront a bittersweet blend of excitement, nostalgia, uncertainty and hope. Though not the last obstacle they will face, this pandemic has prepared them for the future in ways they may not yet realize. Equipped with knowledge and experiences from the last four years, the Class of 2020 is ready to begin a new chapter.