When I spoke to Cameron Shropshire, a military kid who turns 18 this month, I had a gamut of emotions. I was impressed, moved and inspired, but mostly I was sad. Because of COVID-19, he joins thousands of teens across the country missing out on the traditional activities that come with being a senior in high school. And they are devastated.
When Cameron started this school year, he had no idea the country would be shutting down in March. He had goals and plans, like for the violin he has played since 4th grade.
“This year I’ve been doing really well in orchestra. I made my way up to first chair,” he said.
Not only will he miss out on playing first chair in the two concerts left on his schedule, but he is missing an orchestra competition, state and regional track meets, an internship and having a big 18th birthday party with his friends.
“It’s definitely a tragic situation,” he said.
And he isn’t the only senior torn up about this experience.
Letitia Scott, an Army wife, and her family are currently stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. It has been hard for her to watch how our culture shift has affected her senior, Dyndra.
“My daughter feels hurt, angry, sad and unsure amongst other things. She just turned 18 this past Sunday and those plans for her birthday got derailed. Now there is no prom as they just extended the online class time until 30 April. She is missing her senior night as she is on the dance step team, and there’s possibly no ceremony for graduation. All the pivotal moments a senior looks forward to. She stays in her room most of the day. It’s a struggle for her,” Scott said.
Cameron’s parents, retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Shropshire and his wife Yolanda, made a mutual decision in 2015 to remain in Oklahoma. The reason was specifically so their kids could graduate from the school they’d grown to like and with the people they’d built relationships with. Yolanda says it was only fair to allow them to stay and graduate, “so they don’t have to keep starting over with friends and high schools.”
And missing that moment is the hardest to accept, Cameron says.
“The main one is graduation. You know 12 years. You’re looking forward to walking across the stage and receiving a diploma. That’s the toughest one to deal with.”
After discussing the large milestones and big moments he would miss, Cameron spoke of the small things that he took for granted.
“When school finally got cancelled, I was like, ‘Man I really probably just saw some of the people at school for the last time.’ If I would have known it was my last time seeing them, I would have done something different. Maybe made it more special.”
Since then, Cameron and his friends have resorted to making old-fashioned phone calls instead of communicating on Instagram, Snapchat and text messages.
“I’ve FaceTimed and called more now than I have in any part of my high school time. I’ve done that more than I’ve ever done in these past four years during the quarantine.”
As a mother, this is a missed milestone for Yolanda as well. Her last child is graduating high school and she feels bad not being able to commemorate it in a major way. She’d made plans to have family from Mississippi come over and celebrate his graduation. They were also going to take Cameron on a week long senior trip to New York.
But Yolanda isn’t new to having to pivot and adjust.
“Being a family in the military, we learned to transition and go along with things,” she said.
Although there is currently a lot of uncertainty, Cameron tries to focus on his future plans. Having to change up and do school online isn’t easy, but he has maintained a 4.0 GPA and will be attending either Oklahoma State or Tuskegee University to study accounting.
He has a message of encouragement for the graduating class of 2020.
“Keep on pushing. This isn’t the end of the road. There’s always something to look forward to whether that’s college, the military or whatever you’re going to do after you leave high school. You can’t be to disappointed, that’s just what we’re faced with and we have to keep moving on.”