The Last of the Greats

The senior Class of 2023 is the last graduating class to have experienced high school before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s how it’s shaped their lives and the world around them.

The Class of 2023 was among the last classes to have lived a semi-normal high school experience through the beginning of freshman year. Suddenly, the football games, school dances and sounds of lockers were wiped out of our lives with Clorox wipes and masks. Our high school years, meant to be buzzing with excitement, were muted down with Zoom meetings alone in our rooms. Everything we had known before was left to resign, and our minds became nothing but a deserted hum of white noise. On May 5, 2023, the pandemic was officially declared over, but the long lasting effects will continue to affect people, even in unexpected ways. But with light at the end of the tunnel, our pandemic years allowed us to wave goodbye to the sorrows of the past and welcome an unprecedented and necessary era of change.


Final Exams:

With the sudden shift to online school in 2020, teachers were forced to abandon their tried-and-true methods of testing in favor of simple, cheat-proof finals and midterms. During the 2020-2021 school year, some teachers took a gamble by giving students regular exams virtually and accepting the risk of cheaters, while others gave their students a break by assigning “semester reflections” and still others dropped the final exam altogether. Even in our first year back to in-person school, we ended up with online midterms, once again opening exams up to cheating and pressuring many teachers to assign us reflections for the third time in a row. Some teachers went so far as assigning reflections for last year’s final exams as well in an attempt to lessen our workload as we recovered from the pandemic. This year, we have finally returned to regular assessments, but the Class of 2023 remains the last class to have experienced a midterm week entirely devoid of “easy A” reflection assessments. 


Attention Spans:

Although the Class of 2023’s freshman year was cut short, we still got to experience high school pre-COVID-19. We are the last of many things, one of which is being the last class to have a lasting attention span. The attention span of the 2023 graduating seniors is definitely not perfect. However, it is far better than the younger  high school students. Current teenagers, especially high school lower-classmen, feel the need to have multiple forms of stimulation. One such example is the rise of split-screen tablets and laptops. Students are unable to stick to a task for long periods of time without getting distracted. Unfortunately, this is the new reality of high schoolers. 


Skinny Jeans:

Gazing around the hallways in 2019, you’d find yourself in a sea of skinny jeans. Groups of people wearing acid-washed ripped jeans with socks pulled obnoxiously high over them fanned out in every direction. Then, in 2020 during the pandemic, the rise of TikTok led to many emerging fashion trends. These trends such as a Y2k reboot, indie and alternative led to the decline of skinny jean popularity. Following lockdown, not one style is “in.” Many fashion fads are shared and admired all across social media; the only common denominator is the new-found hatred for skinny jeans.


General Disgust:

Whether it was sticky, food-infested tables, “friendly” hugs in the band hallway or a rotting deer head covered in the football team’s “substances,” freshman year for the Class of 2023 was, without a doubt, a disgusting time. The reign of COVID-19, despite its fatal consequences, did little to change many people’s hygiene habits, but something is always better than nothing. The school hallways are still gross, but we can only be thankful they’re not more disgusting. For once, people have been enlightened by the wonders of hand sanitizer and covering coughs. The age of masks provided a haven from the acidic smells of the main gym and hand washing is no longer scarce. The normality of wiping down desks between classes was a treasure and tears of joy fell with every tissue used. The lack of everyday colds and fevers proved a shocking experience to many; it’s crazy to think about the power basic hygiene can have. While we are still far from reaching optimal hygiene, our skewed years helped us become one step closer to the bare minimum.


Social Interaction:

When quarantine began, it was fun to entertain ourselves by being on our phones all day with nothing to do. However, the overall result is that we now would rather entertain ourselves with our phones than with each other. It’s sometimes frustrating when we want to talk to our friend when the teacher says we have freetime to do whatever, but we can’t since the rest of class goes silent for the whole hour since everyone is on their phones instead. There’s an awkward silence; we all know we’d rather be talking, but no one wants to be the first one to disrupt the quiet. 



During the COVID-19 lockdown, people were stuck inside their homes all day. This led teens to either do all of the Chloe Ting workouts or spend excessive time on the Internet and social media. Many human rights issues gained prominence on the Internet, and with lockdown starting the same year as a presidential election, many took to social media as an outlet for political speech. Everyone and their mother was on Instagram or Facebook posting how they felt about every uprising political issue, and, since everyone was tucked away in their respective homes, it was difficult to communicate differences and misunderstandings. As a result, people began to lose their tolerance of their relatives’ and peers’ opinions, ultimately cutting off relationships based on people’s political opinions. 


Mental Health:

Since COVID-19, we have seen a massive uptick in acceptance of mental health issues and have become more accepting of these differences. Throughout bad experiences during lockdown, many people who do not have mental health disorders were under incredible amounts of stress and were socially isolated. This has led to an increase in support of mental health issues and disorders, which has led to many people having access to necessary resources for their mental health. This includes a wider acceptance of therapy, counseling and acceptance of people sharing their emotions. Troy High School has started specific activities to increase student support, such as Character Values highlights at the end of the week. Teachers have also begun to allow extensions for mental health reasons. This cultural shift for the better of society has helped lead to many teachers and staff members understanding mental health problems, and in turn can foster a better learning community for students.



Zoom did substantial damage to the Class of 2023. One issue that has presented itself is being alone far too often. While quarantine is over, quarantine-era habits have yet to die out. We’ve all felt a sense of independence that has become a little too excessive. School work has been a major issue for many kids in this grade: many choose to finish super fast and treat assignments as busy work instead of learning opportunities. We don’t ask for help often, trying to get things done on our own even if we don’t understand it. Many resort to YouTube videos, similar to quarantine. Furthermore, we don’t socialize for as long as we used to. Instead of hanging out with friends all day or exploring the city, many of us are at home asleep or doing independent activities. The old social extroverted lifestyle we all had is gone and everyone is on their own for the most part.


Online activism: 

Following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other unarmed Black people, 2020 marked a year of national and global protests. But for the first time, we turned to social media to advocate for social and political change. Considering how easily accessible social media is, this enabled us to express our opinions whilst quarantining at home. While many of us took the initiative to educate ourselves on important issues, too many simply shared popular posts without actually knowing or caring about the subject. This has continued to this day, with users sharing serious infographics and immediately returning to their regular content. This performative aspect of activism is not effective in creating long-term change. Nonetheless, politics became less of a taboo subject and became more commonly discussed in the classroom, especially during the 2020-2021 school year. With another presidential election on the horizon and many of us becoming eligible to vote, it’s vital that we continue to feel empowered to use our voice, both online and at the ballot box. 


At the end of this chapter of our lives and the beginning of a new one, the Class of 2023 must look back and reflect not only on our high school experience, but how it was changed because of the pandemic. As the final class to begin high school with a normal experience, our version of high school is vastly different from the following classes. Throughout multiple lockdowns, social media became a primary method of communication. Even after the lockdown ended and the pandemic ensued, our lives were changed forever. Many of these drastic changes altered our personalities and morals, yet still brought us closer together despite being further apart. Now we get to graduate in-person and follow our passions and dreams wherever they take us. Yet, at the end of the day, we must ask ourselves, what could have been? That question will follow us throughout our lives, and we may never have the answer. All we may know is that we began and ended with a pandemic, and came out as changed people.