TAYLOR RIDGE, Ill. — Senior year came to an abrupt halt when COVID-19 banned students from coming to school, robbing the 2020 senior class of their final memories: long anticipated prom nights, hard-earned awards ceremonies, and the pomp and circumstance of graduation day.
"It's really overwhelming," said Rockridge High School senior Mia Freyermuth.
"It's been rough," said 17-year-old Brianna Dinnon. "I’ve been missing my friends."
Even Katy Hasson, Rockridge's Principal, conceded: "It's bittersweet."
"So many of our traditional celebrations have been taking away with this COVID-19 crisis and the fact that we’re not here at school," she said.
So when she saw a fellow educator hold a door decorating contest for his seniors, she ran with the idea. "This was just another way that we could get it out there to celebrate what their plans are."
Mia let her love for her farm, where her family raises show pigs, inspire her door design. She plans to attend Illinois Central College in the fall, and major in agriculture business.
"I know I want to be in the ag industry and hopefully encourage the youth education in the swine industry and increase the gap of knowledge between consumers and producers in the ag industry," she said.
She chose to make a barn door her canvas.
Doors to success: Rockridge HS seniors show what their future holds
"In my barn there are 17 pigs that I’m looking to show for this summer. I chose the barn door, because if I’m not at school and at my school activities, I’m typically in the barn. These doors have led me to as many opportunities, as I’ve gotten so far," she said.
A blue tarp and yellow letters for the school she plans to attend, and bright yellow plates spelled out the words "Go Cougars."
Brianna is heading to Culver-Stockton College in Missouri in the fall, to study music technology and eventually "make music people can look up to."
She decorated a door inside her home with a big hand-drawn piano keyboard, the school's logo and designs for all the activities she couldn't wait to start: two e-sports and marching band.
More than a dozen other students shared their big plans on their front doors or bedroom doors with colors, letters and goals spelled out, and shared on social media: future teachers, communicators, soldiers and marines.
"We are just proud of every one of them and know that they`ll achieve great things after Rockridge," Principal Hasson said. "This will be a year for the history books. and you know we wanna celebrate as best as we can."
The 2020 graduating class has just one more accomplishment to be proud of: having made it through high school during a pandemic.
They'll be participating in a modified graduation ceremony, drive-in theater style, in their cars in the school's parking lot on May 24.