During last fall's Homecoming week, St. Charles North seniors sported a farewell concert tour-themed T-shirt listing all the important dates that would make up their final year of high school.
Many of those key events -- prom, a barbecue, a senior breakfast, graduation -- never came to fruition due to the COVID-19 crisis. But Class President Rebekah Phaiboun, who was in charge of planning the festivities, says she still felt honored to celebrate virtually and lead her peers through the uncertain times.
"We were still trying to make it special," she says. "We did it in our own unique way."
Phaiboun was involved in student council throughout high school and also was involved with vocal jazz and choir. She is attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this fall and hopes to pursue a marketing degree.
Q: What did you miss most about the final few months of high school?
A: Honestly, I know most people would say they really missed all the senior events -- prom and all the big things like graduation, for one -- but for me, what I really missed most was going to school. I am one of those people who absolutely loved high school, and it was unfortunate that we had to not have the last two to three months. I missed going there every day and seeing my friends, and even people I wasn't really friends with. It really stinks that I didn't get to say goodbye. I really enjoyed being a senior.
Q: How was the Class of 2020 able to push through the unusual end to your senior year?
A: I feel like the biggest thing is that we all can relate to each other. We know exactly how we feel.
Obviously people are going to look at this in different ways, but overall, the general consensus that I've noticed is that we're all struggling together even though we're not physically together. We've gone through this emotionally, and I feel like this is something that has united us more and made us a little bit closer. For years to come, this is something we'll always have.
Q: How do you think this experience will shape you moving forward?
A: Resilience is a really big lesson I've learned from this, and that can apply to all of us.
For me, my biggest thing is that things aren't always going to go my way. In my mind, I had this picture-perfect ending. Again, I'm somebody who loved high school, and graduation is something I really looked forward to.
But what matters more, I guess, are the accomplishments, the things I've achieved the past four years and the fact that I actually graduated. Life is going to throw whatever it throws at you, and this is something nobody expected at all. What's more important is the journey. Even though I didn't get rewarded with a graduation ceremony, I still did it.