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The Range

A Wichita South senior reflects on COVID-19 and her untypical high school experience

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A Wichita South High senior talks about what she lost in high school because of the pandemic, but also what she learned.

Diana Grajeda is a senior at Wichita South High School.

She's editor of the school's paper and yearbook, drum major for the marching band, a cheerleader and part of the school's tennis team. Pretty typical stuff for a lot of seniors.

But her high school journey has been anything but typical.

Her sophomore year ended in March when Gov. Laura Kelly closed the state's schools. Classes for much of her junior year were done remotely and her senior year was mostly conducted behind a face mask.

Diana — who plans to attend Wichita State next fall — talked with Tom Shine and The Range about what she lost in high school because of the pandemic, but also what she learned.

The interview was edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

Freshman year

I can't even remember how it felt freshman year — just everything normal. Like this just feels normal now. I feel like we've been doing this for years. More than two years.

Junior year

I feel like I missed out on a lot of opportunities and junior year is a pretty big one. So to miss that … you miss scholarship opportunities, you just miss all the involvement … the whole high school experience. You don't get most of it.

A metaphor would be like a sandwich: We only got the bread. We got the beginning and the end; we got nothing in the middle.

Remote learning

We did fully remote up until the second semester [of junior year], and then they let us back. But I didn't go back until I think April.

I didn't really learn anything. … We didn't retain the information cause there were too many distractions, and when you're at home you can just Google everything. … It was too easy to not learn.

How students changed

The major difference … that the year out of school made is the students. We lost a lot of our social development. Like we don't know how to interact with each other anymore.

A lot of students were just really disrespectful, and they were acting like middle schoolers. But you have to remember they were middle schoolers last time they were students. So it just feels like everyone got held back mentally.

We forgot how to be people. We're just all in our own little world again; everyone's in their room, on the computer, in their heads.

Covid Prom.jpg
Courtesy photo
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Grajeda attended her prom during the pandemic.

The start of the pandemic

It was scary. Not because there was anything like particularly scary about it, but you just never knew what was going to happen. They kept passing new laws, changing the rules. New vaccines, new everything.

Especially in the beginning. It felt like an apocalypse. You would go to Walmart; everyone would look at you funny because no one wanted to see other people. The roads were empty. It didn't feel real the first few months to me.

School activities

I never went to homecoming until fall this year, and I did go to prom last year. I went to North [High] and South [High] prom; had to make up for the one I lost.

But they were pretty normal. Both of them were masquerade themed. ... We didn't wear them [masks] once we were inside. So it was kind of a normal prom.

And then this year I went to fall homecoming because my friend was on the court, and she was homecoming queen. And I went to the winter one because I was homecoming queen. Yeah, I won.

What she learned from the pandemic

I think I realized what's really important. Like my freshman and sophomore year, I would waste a lot of time.

My grades and everything … look fine, but I would just waste a lot of time doing nothing. And then when we came back from the pandemic in school, I had to work extra hard to catch up and everything I slacked on junior year.

So it kind of gave me a work ethic that I didn't used to have.

It's not letting me experience my senioritis properly.