NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — Seniors at Sweetwater High School in National City had a chance to say good-bye to each other and their school face-to-face Friday evening, after spending most of this past school year off-campus because of COVID.
With the pandemic, this has been a year like none other for high school seniors around the county and the country.
Observing Coronavirus protocols, including wearing their masks, the seniors of Sweetwater High's Class of 2021 stepped back on campus Friday for 'Gradfest'. For many of them, this was the first time to do so since the pandemic began.
"We want to give the students the opportunity to create some memories that they weren't able to create throughout the year since they were not able to be on campus," said Sweetwater High principal Maribel Gavin.
As they signed in, students got to pick up their yearbook, then walked out on to the school's quad, first grabbing a goodie bag complete with hand sanitizer inside.
This 'Gradfest' offered not only food, games, music and a balloon artist, but also a selfie station, as well as a professional photographer to help capture the evening.
Students also had a chance to sign each other's year books: one of the rites of passage of senior year.
Senior Ariana Jara said that while this past year was not ideal, this celebration was.
"This is a good way of ending, coming back here," she said.
"It is a little bittersweet," added Aden Waitzman, reflecting on the experience of being back on campus for the first time in so long, and perhaps for one of the last times.
"It's surreal," he told News 8. "It's crazy to be honest, especially because it is our last year. It is the last time some of us will ever see this place."
For senior Amy Perez, that was why it was important to come.
"I've had some tough times but they've all made me who I am today," she said. "So I just want to say goodbye to what built me... and now I'm ready for my future!"
These seniors will also get to celebrate another major milestone together next Thursday, with in-person graduation. There will be some changes due to the pandemic, including breaking the larger event into four separate, smaller ceremonies throughout the day, with each graduate limited to four guests.
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