The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the country in many terrible ways and has halted virtually all large, in-person gatherings due to associated health risks. While their plight may not be life-threatening, high school seniors everywhere are nonetheless quietly reeling from the loss of major milestone events like graduation and prom.

Still, some have been moved by the small ways in which they’ve been supported by their community.

Lynnwood High School senior Mae Cramer works part time at a Starbucks in Everett. The managers at Cramer’s Starbucks threw all their high school-aged employees a “socially distanced prom” on April 23. Cramer and her co-workers dressed up in what they would have worn to prom and went to work that Thursday. Her managers decorated the store — which was only open for drive-thru at the time — with lights, made a small dance floor and took pictures. One manager even made corsages.

Lynnwood High School senior Mae Cramer, center, celebrates a socially distanced prom with her friends and co-workers at Starbucks. (Courtesy of Mae Cramer)
Lynnwood High School senior Mae Cramer, center, celebrates a socially distanced prom with her friends and co-workers at Starbucks. (Courtesy of Mae Cramer)

“I totally cried,” said Cramer. “It felt really special to be celebrated by my co-workers and managers.”

Even if didn’t totally make up for her real prom, Cramer said it was something she would never forget.

“We’re definitely in an interesting time,” said Cramer. “I’m trying to see the good in things, and find happiness in the people who are reaching out and making things a little better.”

The managers at the Everett Starbucks where Lynnwood High School senior Mae Cramer works treated Cramer and her high school-aged co-workers to a socially distanced prom in April. 
(Courtesy Mae Cramer)
The managers at the Everett Starbucks where Lynnwood High School senior Mae Cramer works treated Cramer and her high school-aged co-workers to a socially distanced prom in April. (Courtesy Mae Cramer)

Other high school students in the Seattle area are also looking for ways to cope with the loss of their big celebration.

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Elainie Kassa, another senior, has spent the last four years helping plan prom for Franklin High School. As the class treasurer leading the Associated Student Body, she’s helped look for venues, sell tickets and find event dates, among other things in the planning process for dances in years prior. But after so much time spent preparing and looking forward to the big day, Kassa won’t be able to attend her own prom in her final year at Franklin.

“As a senior, it kind of sucks because it’s one of our last celebrations together,” said Kassa. “It was sad, I’ve spent four years doing this, just for prom not to happen.”

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Kassa said her fellow ASB officers briefly considered doing some sort of virtual prom, but ultimately decided against it, saying, “We knew it would probably get made fun of.”

But even without prom, Kassa says her classmates are trying to stay positive, connecting and sharing their postgraduate plans on social media, and “just taking this one step at a time.”

Despite the shutdown, high schoolers are trying to keep their spirits up, looking for alternative ways to celebrate with their friends and family.

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“We’re just trying to figure out what to do to make things feel normal,” said Alyssa White, a senior at Chief Sealth International High School.

Alyssa White, a senior at Chief Sealth High School, in her would-be prom dress on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (Amanda Snyder / The Seattle Times)
Alyssa White, a senior at Chief Sealth High School, in her would-be prom dress on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (Amanda Snyder / The Seattle Times)

Prior to prom’s cancellation, White had already purchased a dress and was looking forward to dressing up and spending time with friends. But when shutdowns began, she was forced to make other plans. White hopes to hold a small dinner with friends at some point, when they can wear their prom outfits and celebrate together.

“In some ways it’s kind of better,” said White. “Since it’s later in the year, we can invite our friends that already graduated.”

Rosalinda Ekman, a senior at Tahoma High School, had also already made prom plans, buying her dress, finding a group of people to go with and making reservations to go to dinner beforehand. She attended prom last year as well, but was looking forward to going as a senior, as a sort of last hurrah.

“When things began to close and get canceled, it was very hard on me,” said Ekman.

On April 18, the day prom was scheduled to happen, she and some friends got dressed up, took photos in their respective homes and got on a Zoom call together. Even though it couldn’t replace the real thing, Ekman says she’s trying to find small victories.

“Little celebrations are super cool and they put some light into what is happening right now,” she said. “It makes missing out on a lot of senior stuff just a little bit less tough.”