Trying to navigate the end of high school during a pandemic has been “overwhelming and disorienting,” as Makayla Woods, 17, puts it. “It’s been really confusing for me and a lot of seniors out there,” the Hockaday School student says. “It’s hard trying to plan for something when there are so many variables that you can’t control.”
This month, high school seniors around Texas will celebrate hard-earned milestones and anticipated rites of passage—including graduation, prom, and honor society and Eagle Scout ceremonies—either at a distance, virtually, or both. Many students are experiencing disappointment, grief, and confusion as they try to grapple with this difficult moment in time, as well as what the future might look like. “It’s hard to make sense of all of this, but I’m learning important lessons on how valuable life is and how meaningful the time I spend with my friends and family is,” says Jacob Clarkson, 18, a senior at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas.
Ahead of graduation day, Mary Beth Koeth photographed Dallas-area high school students, like Woods, at their homes, many of them in the garb they would have worn to commencement, prom, and other ceremonies. Their stories capture the range of emotions and considerations students are facing as they emerge into an uncertain world post-graduation. For her part, Woods says she’s been trying to use this moment in a constructive way. “It’s been a good time for me to do a lot of self-reflecting on who I really am,” she says. “I guess that’s a good thing to do before you go to college.”