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Let’s talk about the past four years at Cal High in classic YouTube rewind format

As a senior at our esteemed California High School, I can say three things with absolute certainty. For one, there is no other high school that is quite like ours. Two, the previous four years have been one wild ride. The third thing is that I am very tired.
Back when I was barely even a freshman I had so many different ideas of what high school would be like. Getting shoved into a locker, studying furiously for tests and seeing other students spontaneously breakout into song, the usual.
My expectations may have been just slightly influenced by “High School Musical”, but you get the point.
What I had no idea of, however, was just how hectic the next four years would be. Though to be fair, there is very little anyone could have predicted about the coming years.
My experiences, and the experiences of all the other Ca seniors, have been truly unique in a way that is difficult to put into words. I mean, how does one summarize four whole school years while desperately trying to stay brief?
Well, seeing how I’m trying to give an overview of the things we all experienced at Cal, why not structure it like a YouTube Rewind, the yearly synopsis of the content seen on the platform during the year? Those have always been received well, right?
It all started in freshman year, as such notable things so often do. Our first introduction to the eventful Cal campus was interesting, to say the least. Packed hallways, towering flights of stairs, the things we’ve familiarized ourselves with now. But one thing that remained constant is the occurrence of graffiti in our bathrooms at the time.
Barely a semester into the year and the school already had a scandal. Graffiti was scrawled on tiled walls and stalls of varying messages and slurs. Administrators quickly dealt with the issue, but graffiti would still be written in the bathrooms through most of the year.
One of the most influential topics of the year, however, was an up and coming app called TikTok. All the way back in ye olde freshman year, TikTok hadn’t gained the popularity in the school as it would have in later years. Most students didn’t really know or care about the app, as it was still generally niche. Better times.
But good times don’t always last. Especially after all of us were hit with what may be the most influential occurrence of our high school tenure.
Let’s address the elephant in the room, COVID-19. I’m sure that we all remember that week in early March, when we were still wondering if Cal was actually going to suspend in-person learning. I remember the last day of school on campus that year vividly.
I was practically rejoicing at the fact that I wouldn’t have to finish a soliloquy poster after reading “Romeo and Juliet” in English. I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember a single line from that book.
Still can’t, sorry Mr. Barr.
But the coming quarantine showed us that maybe celebrating our perceived freedom would show our hubris, as we were all going to stay inside for a while.
This makes for a good segue into the next year, sophomore year. The year without a campus, the great indoors, quarantine boogaloo or whatever moniker the year has earned.
I’ll cut to the chase and say what we’re all thinking. Quarantine wasn’t fun. I never thought that I could get claustrophobic in my own room or manage to slowly wear down the skin on my fingers from scrolling so much, but quarantine will do that to you.
I’m pretty sure I contorted my body to look like a hunchbacked seahorse slouching as I was in my chair at home. As if my spine wasn’t already italicized, quarantine only exacerbated the issue of my abysmal posture.
Above everything else, staying at home while going to class online was so mundane, repetitive and mind numbingly boring. Of course I understood and respected why we were in quarantine. That didn’t make it any easier. The teachers made an incredible effort to keep things diverse and interesting while online, for which I am immensely grateful.
But with all due respect, one can only do so many assignments online without getting repetitive. I didn’t realize that I could get bored of watching YouTube and memes or of playing the hit new game, “Among Us”, but it turns out I could.
To be fair, there is only so much one can do to keep a classroom engaged on Zoom, so teachers did everything that they really could. But there were some invigorating things to do during the year, like online AP tests.
Y’know what scratch, that, the tests were about as interesting as watching the seconds slowly go by during the nearly hour long student support we had. For those who had the mercy of not doing an AP test online, I really envy you.
Saying that an online AP Euro test is tedious and made me want to slam my head into my Macbook like a panini press would be a bit of an understatement.
But there was one terrifically wondrous thing about sophomore year that made the tedium worth it. It ended. Not with some grand gesture or feel-good reunion. It just ended and many of us students were left scratching our heads wondering what would come next.
Well, the obvious answer to that was the next year, but you get the idea.
Junior year was a breath of fresh air for most, and an inhale of freshly eaten breakfast- scented mask breath for others.
Returning to the Cal campus was amazing, don’t get me wrong here. I never thought that I would miss exhaustedly climbing up three flights of stairs every day, but junior year proved me wrong. It’s just that our third year in high school had no shortage of interesting occurrences.
Should I be concerned about the fact that I could only remember something majorly positive happening at high school during the penultimate year on campus? Nah, I’m sure that’s fine.
For starters, the campus got a glow up while we were away. The formerly monochrome quad was now alive with color, and a beautiful mural was drawn on the stairwell of the World Language building.
Our high school looked so lively when we first got back from the confines of our rooms.
Anyways, my compliments about Cal’s new look aside, I’m sure many students remember the walkout that occurred early in the year. In a surprising show of unity, a large group of students walked out of their classes to protest the changing of the rules regarding students not being able to sit in their cars during lunch.
Wait. That was this year. My bad. Nevermind.
Other shows of support and unity were soon to come, as several students later took to the quad to protest the rising conflict in Ukraine. Being quite the change of pace from previous years, things were starting to look up around campus.
Then a trash was ignited in a restroom and things kind of spiraled again.
After most AP tests were over and done with, the main building was evacuated at the notice of a fire alarm. Most students had blissfully forgotten the sudden, grating sound of the fire alarm because of quarantine, so being jumpscared by it during late May was a shock.
I feel especially bad for the seniors that year, as they left campus after a literal garbage fire made the news.
What wasn’t nearly as shocking was how the year’s SATs went. Previously, the PSAT didn’t exactly set a glowing precedent, what with the few mistakes and general uncertainty surrounding the test when it was conducted. Not only were some aspects of the SAT rough, but it was announced that some colleges wouldn’t even consider the scores.
Imagine working through all the effort of the PSAT and trying to get a superscore on the actual test only to find out that your dream college doesn’t look at your score with priority.
Well, I’m sure that several seniors don’t exactly need to imagine and those students have my sympathy.
Not that I went through anything like that. Early on in quarantine I made a guess that colleges wouldn’t look at SAT scores in the same way after COVID-19, so I opted to take a risk and avoid the standardized test. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the SAT in later years once we’re gone.
Speaking of, one thing that piqued the interest of several students during junior year was the transition from Schooloop to Schoology.
But the interest among students wasn’t derived from hopeful curiosity. It was actually closer to mass confusion. Juniors and seniors alike harkened back to the days of using the generally convenient Schooloop and stared blankly at Schoology’s login page, wondering why the previous website had been abandoned.
But there is a bright side to the change of learning management systems over the years. At least we’re not going back to Google Classroom anytime soon. Hopefully.
All of that brings us to the present day of our senior year, which is not lacking in notable circumstances.
Cal got a new principal in Demetrius Ball, who has been a welcome change of pace all things considered. It’s refreshing to see a principal as active on campus and in the quad as Mr. Ball. We also have several new members of administration, but that’s not entirely surprising considering Cal has had a veritable revolving door of administrators since freshman year.
With the new principal and administration, students at Cal have more input on how the school functions and reacts to problems on campus. The level of student autonomy is certainly different from previous years, and it’s interesting to see how much school has changed since freshman year.
What hasn’t been as welcome is the process of college applications. Since a majority of seniors have gone through applications, I’m sure that we’re all happy that we only have to do that once, right? The process was rough, but it wasn’t awful.
It’s just that if I had to give any more thought into what I wanted to do with my life I may have spontaneously combusted.
On a more positive note, the senior ball was a blast. Music, good food, gambling tables, and an albino alligator is not what I had in mind initially, but it was still fun. I may have lost everything I own in an all-or-nothing gambling match, but that’s part of the fun.
As we near the end of our high school education, it’s important to mention those who have helped us through these four years. I doubt that many of us students would have been as successful if it weren’t for the constant support from our many teachers, as they have helped us every step of the way.
Similarly, leadership has been resolute in making sure the Cal campus remains fun and engaging for all the students. So, to all the people who have helped us seniors through it all, thank you.
Looking back on our time together at Cal starting all the way back to freshman year, it’s easy to think that our time at high school has been hectic, to put it lightly. We’ve gone through a global pandemic, AP tests, social isolation, college applications, and much more.
Our time at Cal has certainly been irregular, but all the more memorable. When some of us are parents it’ll be us who will get to pull the “you kids have it so easy, back in my day…” card. Through everything, we seniors have stuck through it all. Soon we’ll stride into the world of adulthood as the responsible people we have grown to be.
Well, most of us will move on from Cal. But I’ve grown attached to our campus and I don’t exactly want to go. Maybe I can flunk all my classes and redo my senior year, for a fresh start. Plus, I’d be able to continue writing for The Californian!