Escaping the Vacuum: GOHS Growling Class of 2023


The emerging graduating class of 2023 is beginning their last year of high school and bittersweet uncertainty is felt in the air. 

College applications, internships, AP classes, scholarships, extracurriculars, SAT testing, and interviews weigh heavily on the backs of these seniors, who so eagerly wish to succeed. Years of walking up and down GOHS hallways are almost coming to an end. The 14 and 15-year-olds who once admired seniors have now taken their place. Time is a thief and every last minute of high school suddenly counts. Even though their high school career is bound to end, their journey is just beginning, and many are ready to escape the vacuum that had enabled them from discovering more about themselves. The opportunities are limitless and they are breaking the barriers that are keeping them inside their comfort zone. 

The first week of Senior year generated overwhelming feelings of excitement, yet anxiousness as reality finally hit. Although some seniors felt the same, others were engulfed with unexpected sadness, nostalgia, and even relief as they walked down the hallways of their last first day of high school. 

“I think because everyone was saying this was our last first day, it just kind of hit me, and I was really sad about it,” libero volleyball player Cibeles Bothwell said.

Even though there is a sense of staggering pressure that constantly pervades and nudges seniors, the class of 2023 is able to combat those feelings of uncertainty by having goals and plans that keep them grounded, motivated, and that are allowing them to start planning for months ahead. One of the most common goals is getting accepted into college.  

Since the beginning of the school year, countless seniors have started to spend the majority of their time perfecting their college essays and detailing resumes to the last punctuation mark. However, the pressure to put their lives into a limited amount of words for college essays is intimidating… almost terrifying. The constant thought of college admissions officers accepting students based on how versatile and academically achieving they are out of thousands of other applicants quickly leads to self-doubt within Grizzly seniors.

“Of course having to apply to colleges is definitely intimidating because it’s setting yourself up for possibly being rejected, and that’s always a negative feeling,” Bothwell said.

From the start of their high school career, concepts of academic validation have had both a positive and negative toll on seniors, and its effects have become even more transparent through college applications as many are basing their probability of getting accepted into college on the grades they have kept throughout their whole 4 years of high school. For example, those who generally have high grades show greater confidence in their application than those who have struggled academically, which ultimately highlights the nerve-wracking and normalized influence of academic validation.

Regardless, seniors should feel a sense of accomplishment in completing the application process itself. Being able to take a risk and try their best no matter the outcome is what truly counts although it may be hard to accept at first. Ultimately, seniors are undergoing a path of maturity, and part of maturing is realizing that fails and wins should be taken as a learning experience to grow and independentize. 

“I would be upset, but at the same time, you have to understand that life still continues, and if that’s like the college you are really set on, you can always apply next semester, you know. It’s not always set in stone,” Drum Major Kylie Burke said.

Besides college admissions taking a large part in a senior’s life, countless seniors have goals in extracurriculars, other outside-of-school interests, and classes they have grown to have a passion for, especially because many have taken part in certain extracurricular activities or classes since their freshman year. They have created friends and memories and learned skills that will help them succeed in life after high school, or that have even influenced what they wish to do after graduation. For instance, many seniors found a passion for sports, and this has consequently, inspired them to become professional athletes. Similarly, seniors who have found enjoyment in playing an instrument or writing continue to expand their passion by being part of various fine arts clubs.

“I really want to make the regional band for the school,” Burke said. 

The dedication, commitment, and tenacity the Class of 2023 shows for their extracurriculars is truly inspiring. 

“I think by the end of the year, I’d like to kind of have more of an idea of what job I want to do after high school, and then also in my animation class, I’m hoping I’ll learn a lot of skills from it,” art enthusiast Sarah Philbrook said. 

Even though involvement in many extracurricular activities, challenging classes, and after-school jobs bring a rewarding high school experience, it can take a negative toll on the well-being of seniors. Hundreds of students have felt constant stress and pressure since the start of their high school career, and because of that, they have learned valuable life lessons that are not only applicable to their last year but will undoubtedly impact them in the future as well.

“I really learned about time management. Having to do volleyball, band, work, and then school work on top of it. It was a lot of having to figure out the time to do homework and actually do well in school,” Burke said.  

Many seniors came to discover that putting themselves first despite accumulating responsibilities had more advantages than they had originally thought.

“I learned not to stress so hard about certain work assignments because I was overworked and I lost a lot of sleep, so don’t do that. Prioritize yourself first,” choir officer Jane Sundy said. 

Seniors being able to prioritize and value themselves before school work has also allowed the class of 2023 to start enjoying their last year of high school to the fullest, and to create high school memories that they can forever cherish. As agreed by most, the ultimate lesson is to strive to have a balance between school and their personal life, especially because enjoying the present has the power to ease the pressure that comes with the unknown future. High school can never be repeated once again, and no one knows what tomorrow will bring. 

Because of this, many seniors are determined and excited to attend at least one school event before graduating, which they feel will leave a lasting mark on their teenage lives.

“The Senior Field Day, I think, because they are calling it the last recess, and that makes me so emotional. I’m excited for that,” senior Shelby Hastings said.

Other students are choosing to remember their last year of high school by doing more than simply attending an event. Some are taking the time to showcase their cherished memories in a more creative way.

 “I’m going to be making a scrapbook for my last year of high school. So yeah, I’ll have all my pictures from freshman to senior year,” Burke said. 

There’s no doubt that seniors are determined to unapologetically show their high school spirit by attending more events than ever before in their past high school years. These seniors are ready to put their growl on…loud and proud.

“Do all the things like homecoming, prom, and attend football games.”  FCCLA officer Kylie Morse said. 

The Class of 2023 is traversing a path of fresh realizations, unexpected turns, and new learning experiences that are molding these seniors into fervent, perseverant individuals. There is no doubt that these seniors are eager to escape the vacuum and take charge of their own future. Now, all that’s left is to see these seniors become young adults who will surely leave a beautiful mark on the changing world. The possibilities are endless and these seniors have shown that the world is in the palm of their hands. 

“I felt very bittersweet because this is my last year of high school, and it will be my last year of being like a kid, you know, Hastings said. “But I’m glad it’s over. I’m entering a new chapter in my life.”