We connected virtually with seniors from all Partnership high schools — Santee Education Complex, Jordan High School, Mendez High School, Roosevelt High School, and MSTMA at Roosevelt — to learn more about their experiences and perspectives after returning to campus. 

Kailee Johnson, senior and cheer captain at Santee Education Complex, will attend the University of California, Los Angeles, and major in Business Economics. She would like to pursue a career in Marketing.

My greatest success since being back on campus is becoming the Valedictorian of my graduating class. Achieving this honor, while carrying the load of extracurricular activities, is fulfilling for me. After quarantining for a year and a half, I believe that my biggest challenge was getting readjusted to my on-campus workload — my extracurriculars, classwork, and homework were overwhelming at the beginning of the transition from Zoom to in-person learning. And now I’m looking forward to what’s to come!

Daniel Salgado, Jordan High School senior and school leadership treasurer, will attend Cal Poly Pomona and major in computer engineering. He would like to pursue a career as an engineer building new generation computers. 

Since returning to campus I have been able to adjust comfortably, especially with my peers. Being back has influenced me to become more of an extrovert than I previously was and I feel more empowered to stand up for myself. I worried that quarantine might have made me awkward. My critical thinking and open mindset have allowed me to overcome this challenge. Something I keep repeating to myself is, “This is my last year of high school, so I have to make the most of it.” But, being back in school has also brought the challenge of shifting back into physical work and a typically more rigorous workload, and I know that I am not alone in having to readjust in this area.

Jocelyn Elizalde Ledesma is a senior at Mendez High School. She plans to attend Middlebury College and major in Political Science. 

Returning to campus has been both my biggest challenge and success. Before the pandemic, I was a new student who transferred during the second semester of sophomore year, and I only had about two months in school before going online. I spent all junior year not knowing any of my classmates, and not being able to form good connections with my new teachers. Coming back to school for senior year knowing only a handful of students and faculty from previous classes was intimidating. Despite this, I was able to integrate myself into the school. Having in-person classes helped me form closer connections with my peers, and teachers; with the help of sports like cheer, I was also able to make many friendships and maintain my academic success.

Joshua Ruiz, senior at Roosevelt High School is involved in college peer counseling, journalism, and i.am.College Track. He will attend the University of California, Berkeley, for Ecosystem Management & Forestry. 

The hardest thing for me about returning to campus after COVID was the initial shock of returning back to “full speed” and having to make up for lost time. I think we all had to push past the comfort zones we created for ourselves during quarantine. However, since being back on campus, my greatest accomplishment has been my ability to take on challenges and enroll in additional classes which propelled me to jump from a sophomore to a senior, skipping my junior year of high school. I was excited to apply to many universities and ultimately be admitted to UC Berkeley. Go Bears!

America Muñoz is a senior at MSTMA at Roosevelt who will attend California State University, Los Angeles, and major in Kinesiology. Prior to the pandemic she played softball and is now student body president. 

Trying to prioritize my emotional and mental well-being has been the biggest challenge for me since returning to school. Throughout quarantine I had extra time to focus on how to relieve my anxiety. However, being back on campus and taking on multiple events in and out of school has shifted my focus away from the things I value most – for example National Day of Silence, Spirit Week, Autism Awareness, Superintendent Townhall, and speaking in front of multiple district members at our school’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. I’ve noticed my anxiety incrementally increase because of this. At the same time, I find it ironic to say that one of my biggest successes since returning to school has been my ability to challenge myself and face my fears. Challenging my fears has allowed me to do things many people my age may be hesitant to do. This school year has given me multiple opportunities to not only grow as a student but as an independent person.