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Capistrano Dispatch: JSerra Celebrates Seniors in Midst of COVID-19 Pandemic

The Capistrano Dispatch's Collin Breaux reported on this morning's Senior Swag Day — a drive-thru event at JSerra where seniors could safely pick up their caps, gowns, graduation announcements, and beloved "swag" commemorating their time at JSerra.

JSerra Celebrates Seniors in Midst of COVID-19 Pandemic

The JSerra Catholic High School Class of 2020 has had an unusual year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they haven’t been forgotten by their teachers and the school.

JSerra held a Senior Swag Day celebration on Wednesday, May 27, in which students were congratulated by faculty and staff as they drove by in vehicles while music played and balloons were hung along the route. Students also picked up their caps, gowns and special gifts.

Students and adults alike wore masks to prevent the spread of the virus. Aiden Brotman, 17, said the school did a good job with the celebration.

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"I didn’t expect it to be as extravagant as it is," Brotman said. “It's super sanitary. I’m really grateful we have such an amazing JSerra community, and we can come together to celebrate this despite the circumstances."

Brotman is taking the health crisis seriously and has an older brother who is at-risk for the virus. He hasn't been out of the house much lately and thinks JSerra has done well transitioning to the different conditions brought about by the pandemic.

"I graduated with better grades than I thought I would, with the help of the teachers and administration," Brotman said.

Students at JSerra and other schools throughout South Orange County have switched to distance learning, another term for online education, while campuses are closed.

"The teachers are available almost 24/7, which is really remarkable," Brotman said. "It almost feels like remote learning is the way to go."

Brotman is next heading to Tulane University in New Orleans to study management and public health.

English teacher Eileen McKeagney came out to congratulate the students. She said the teachers were delighted to see their students.

"We've missed them so much," McKeagney said. "You can just see from the turnout here how much we’re thirsting for that ability to congratulate them and make them feel like, yes, this is an unconventional time, but you are unconventional people."

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The pandemic has been rough on everyone, but JSerra has pulled through, McKeagney said. The administration and other teachers supported McKeagney as she put her curriculum online.

"I know my kids did not suffer academically," McKeagney said. "I know we all struggled emotionally here and there, but also we had that camaraderie that helps us get through it."

Distance learning hasn't been ideal, but it is better than not interacting with students at all, McKeagney said.

"I think we’ve been really blessed," McKeagney said. "The Catholic education we're able to give the kids is so much more than just the curriculum. It's by the grace of God we’re able to come together even when we're apart."

Students will be able to pick up their diplomas this Saturday, May 30, in small groups while practicing social distancing during a drive-up commencement ceremony. President Rich Meyer has previously said JSerra is making every effort to reopen the campus by August 10 for next school year if that is allowed.

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(All photos: Collin Breaux)