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Take the Mic: Coming to terms with a senior year disrupted by the pandemic

courtesy of Lian Koeppel
Lian Koeppel, 18, graduated from Hanford High School in Richland and will attend the University of Idaho.

The virus that has swept our country crushed the dreams of a lot of high school seniors.

Lian Koeppel, an 18-year-old from Richland, had been picturing since middle school the beautiful long red gown she’d wear to her senior prom. And she pushed herself through high school with her heart set on being valedictorian, standing up on stage to give her speech to all her classmates, family members and teachers.

But the coronavirus got in the way of those dreams. Prom was canceled. And even though she did achieve her goal of being one of Hanford High School’s valedictorians, her graduation ceremony had to be virtual. She said that didn’t live up to her expectations and made her rethink how she spent her time.

“You should work hard but at the same time, you should enjoy in the moment,” Koeppel said. “You should enjoy every step of the journey.”

This fall, Koeppel will attend the University of Idaho, where the pandemic has forced some changes to the campus experience as it has at universities and colleges across the country. She and another student had connected through social media and planned to share a room, but now they’ll live separately because of restrictions the university has put in place to prevent transmission of the virus.

Koeppel shared her story through KNKX’s Take the Mic youth voices project. We welcome more stories from teens and kids. Here’s information on how to share your own piece.

Thanks to McKenna Hunt for her help producing this story.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.