Chincoteague Graduates Speak in CIAO Video About Senior Year During COVID-19

Cars fill the parking lot during Chincoteague High School's drive-in commencement ceremony on Monday, June 1, 2020. Photo by Carol Vaughn

By Carol Vaughn —

What happens when senior year of high school is cut short because of a pandemic? How does that affect young people on the brink of adulthood?
Recent graduates of Chincoteague High School spoke about their unique senior year in a video sponsored by the Chincoteague Island Arts Organization.
The video, produced and directed by Doug Mills, premiered Aug. 31 on YouTube and can be viewed at
A copy will be given to the Museum of Chincoteague Island for its living history project.
CIAO summer intern Davis Stack interviewed four members of the class of 2020 about being seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic — and what their world might look like going forward.
The video features interviews with Joshua Reese, Caroline Woods, Rachael Liddle, and Kyle Moore.
Asked what he missed out on when senior year was cut short, Reese said, “I missed out on prom and graduation and all that.”
Reese acknowledged the school tried to provide a graduation experience for seniors, despite pandemic restrictions.
Chincoteague’s commencement ceremony in June was a drive-in one held in the school parking lot, followed by a vehicle parade through town.
“It was a good experience. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was different than, I think, any other graduation,” Reese said.
What Reese looks forward to, post-pandemic, is going to a movie theater again.
“Watching something — anything. Sitting home hasn’t been the best,” he said.
Reese was looking forward to attending Randolph-Macon College this fall.
Those plans changed somewhat due to the pandemic, with students taking two classes in the first half of the fall semester and two in the second half, rather than the usual schedule.
“What are your thoughts about entering into the ‘real world’ in such crazy times?” Stack asked.
Reese said he is “a little bit on edge” about the prospect, but said, “I guess you don’t control the cards you are dealt.”
Reese was in Florida on vacation when he found out school was closed for the rest of the year.
He passed the time working for his uncle for a couple of months, then resumed his job at Bill’s Seafood Restaurant.
“I think (the pandemic) has definitely pushed me to work a lot harder and make sure my finances are good, so I don’t have to really struggle or worry about something like this (if), say, it comes back again,” Reese said.
Woods was active in drama club all four years of high school.
Because of the pandemic, she missed out on directing the last play of her high school career.
Among other extracurricular activities, Woods was in band — the spring concert also was canceled.
Woods also mentioned seeing movies with friends and being able to go out as things she looks forward to once restrictions are lifted.
The commencement celebration “was kind of a nice, little, ‘okay, this is actually happening’ thing. … Even though it was still not what we expected it to be, it was still more than what could have happened if things had gotten even worse,” she said.
Woods is attending James Madison University. At the time of the interview, the start of fall semester was about a month away.
“There are definitely going to be a lot more restrictions on things. … My guess is that there’s probably going to be some of my classes moved online. I know a couple of my friends are having their classes moved 100% online,” she said, adding, “… I’m sure there’s probably going to be less activities and things to attend.”
Woods said she is looking forward to adulthood, even in these strange times.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but growing up is already a challenge. I think of myself as kind of an adaptable person, so I don’t think it will be too difficult, but it still is going to be a challenge,” she said.
When school closed, she went to work at Mr. Whippy’s to keep busy.
The school didn’t give seniors any academic work, she said.
“They…sent us an email that said, ‘Congratulations; you’re done.’”
Liddle missed spending time with friends as senior year abruptly ended.
She also was a member of drama club, working on costuming and makeup.
“That was really disappointing to miss all that, and the memories,” she said.
What she looks forward to post-pandemic is “just being able to sit in a restaurant and not having to worry about being six feet apart from people, and being able to communicate and being able to see people smile at you — because you don’t really get to see that with masks on.”
Liddle wants to attend cosmetology school, but may take a gap year.
She said commencement was “weird, being in a car.”
Entering the ‘real world’ during COVID-19 is “kind of scary,” Liddle said, adding, “It’s really stressful, because now I’m working a full-time job and I have bills to pay.”
Moore also missed spending time with people after school closed.
His plans include trade school in North Carolina.
“I was happy with what we got,” for a commencement celebration, Moore said. “A lot of people complained about it, that it wasn’t enough, but I was happy that we at least got something.”
He expects trade school to be different than it would have been pre-pandemic.
“They are actually going to go halfway online, halfway in person. … Trade school, you’ve got to learn hands on,” he said.
Moore played football and soccer — the soccer season was cut short when school closed.
“Right now it makes me a little nervous” to be entering the ‘real world’ during the pandemic, Moore said.
Trade school takes 1 1/2 years, “and right after that, I’m going right to work. … If nothing’s open, I’m not going to have a chance to get a job, so I kind of worry about that — but hopefully everything goes back quick and I’m able to get a job,” he said.
He went to work at the KOA campground on Chincoteague the same day school closed, but worked for only 1 1/2 weeks before most staff were laid off.
He later was brought back, then laid off again.
“Now we are back full power,” he said.
What will Moore never forget about high school?
“All of the friends I made, and probably some of the teachers. They are just really good people here.”
CIAO has been unable to offer its usual series of live programs in the Island Theatre and the Annex this summer, but has been streaming virtual programs online. This was its fourth such program. It also included a short video with aerial views and shots of landmarks on Chincoteague and Assateague, produced by Kier Johnson.
Executive producers were Bill Borges and Bill Spann.
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