SGA looks for ways to restore the senior experience for the Class of 2021

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Daniel Mateu '21

Rachel Bienstock ’21 and Claire Holzman ’21 standing beside the cannon painted to celebrate this year’s virtual St. Albans Day.

After the Class of 2020 ended their senior year with the abrupt cancelling of several important rituals, including in-person graduation, the Class of 2021 braced for a year that would not be what they’d imagined. Although every RE student is facing similar challenges, such as decreased social interaction with friends, the loss of school events and other extracurricular activities, and separation from family members, the pandemic has hit seniors particularly hard—even with the REopening of campus. The senior deck is a socially-distanced ghost town; classic privileges, such as driving off campus and homecoming, have been taken away out of safety concerns. 

RE’s administration has vowed to rebuild the senior year experience by planning fun events for the student body and providing new ways for students to socialize. So far, however, it has been difficult to figure out what, exactly, to do.

“It’s very frustrating because we’ve had a lot of privileges taken away,” said Claire Holzman ’21, a Senior SGA representative. “The administration, which we’ve been working closely with, has been saying that they’re trying to make new privileges for us. But almost everything we bring to their attention gets vetoed.”   

According to Holzman, the school does not “want to host unnecessary gatherings,” out of an abundance of caution. And although SGA believes it is setting reasonable proposals, attempts to bring back past events that do not require gatherings have been unsuccessful.

“We tried to get Smoothie King, and Whip n’ Dip back, but those suggestions were vetoed,” Holzman said, adding that many of the events that have been vetoed could happen safely.

“One idea was something on the 21st of every month, because we are the Class of 2021,” Rachel Bienstock ‘21, another senior class SGA representative, said. “We wanted to start November 21, which was a Saturday, where we would have a fun day at Ransom with food trucks, rented ping pong tables, or just other fun games and activities that we could do.” This idea was also vetoed by the administration.    

“We’re missing out on a lot of stuff and it’s kind of hard right now and like it seems like there is no end,” Bienstock said, summing up the shared sentiments of many seniors this year.

Some SGA efforts have produced results, however. Recently, the senior class has had two senior breakfasts, where breakfast was served on the field. Bienstock said eventually there will be a breakfast “in the morning before school starts so we can watch the sunrise on the bay.” 

For larger events in the future, Bienstock and Holzman were unsure of what was to come in the second semester. They both admitted that the ability to attend sporting events, school dances, or other activities will be dependent on the COVID situation.  

“The consensus of the people I have spoken to is yes [in support of social events],” said Mr. Jay Salon, the organizer of RE’s prom. “Everyone, even the business office, said the underlying theme is that the school needs to do something. We have lost so many social events, and we need a social event to bring everybody back together again. We know not everybody’s going to come, but we want to try to get together, wear a mask, and stay distant. That would be very fun.”

Mr. Salon said that prom will happen—in some way. “The consensus is that people want to prom. If the pandemic is over, we will hopefully have a regular prom. We already have contact with JW Marriot, but if we cannot have a regular prom, the idea is to have a prom outside on the Touzet Quad. We would decorate and have dinner outside, everyone socially distant. We would make it as nice as possible.”

Mr. Salon stressed that the Touzet Quad prom is just an idea, and it has not been formally discussed. The viability of a regular prom, moreover, would be “dependent upon the vaccine” and finding a new source of fundraising. In prior years, parking for the Coconut Grove Arts Festival has been the largest fundraiser for prom; in November, the festival’s organizers announced that the 2021 festival would be canceled.   

“I feel for this year’s seniors,” Mr. Salon said. “They lost a lot a part of a good part of the school experience, they really have. Everyone is socializing online, and sometimes in person. It’s good to see people, but interactions just feel different this year. I feel like I don’t know my students as well.”

Mrs. Isis Perez-Gonzalez, RE’s Director of Counseling, noted the importance of regaining close connections with peers and creating events that unite the Ransom community—even if they take on a different format. “It’s extremely important,” Mrs. Perez-Gonzalez said. “It’s been proven through surveys and research, that the relationships people build during their high school years are formative. Being able to socialize, even if socialization looks different now, is important.”  

For Mrs. Perez-Gonzalez, restoring the typical Ransom Everglades experience is as much a physical challenge as it is a mental challenge. “Everybody needs to realize that the pandemic brought us close to uncertainty. A lot of people feel like the rug has been taken underneath their feet because of the uncertainty,” she said. “But we’ve never had control of everything. That’s something that our mind wants us to believe that we’re in control. So, it’s bracing the uncertainty and being able to detach from the outcome.”