The senior perspective


Photo by Christina Schneider

Senior Ashlei Gruender shares her senior perspective.

My last year of high school has not been like anything I could’ve imagined. It feels like just yesterday I was walking onto campus as a terrified, yet excited, a freshman who was ready to do whatever it took to get to my senior year as fast as I could. Now that I’m here, I’d do anything to go back.

My first time coming back to school after it shut down on March 13, 2020, was in August 2021, still in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. I took my first steps back on campus for the first time in almost two years, this time as a senior. Almost immediately I felt the change in our campus culture. For some reason, the campus I had previously experienced was duller than I had remembered. The emotions were high due to the reuniting of friends who hadn’t seen each other in the time away.

After frantically running around campus in hopes of being able to recognize people under their masks, I collected those I found familiar. For the last time, we went and checked out our first periods on the senior wall. As the day continued, I settled back into the campus that I didn’t know I would miss so much.

Weeks went by, and it still hadn’t settled in that I was now at the top of the school, class-wise. As we started experiencing spirit days, I saw how different our classes were. The seniors were dressing up like they had remembered what the Rancho spirit was, maybe some of the juniors too, but when it came to the sophomores and freshmen, it seemed like they barely participated at the beginning of the year. This really opened my eyes: the liveliness of our beautiful and spirited campus had almost completely diminished.

Our rallies and dances didn’t feel the same anymore. Even the spirit clap didn’t have the same effect it did in the past. As part of the only class on campus to have experienced a full year of how Rancho truly is, it was absolutely devastating to see the spark we had slowly fade. As soon as we got back, fights started to break out, mainly, what seemed to be like, between lower classmen who were fighting over middle school problems. We faced new rules on simply going to the bathroom due to the increase of bathroom vandalism occurring on campus. I knew Rancho was different now.

It’s bittersweet, the whole “senior year” thing. You Zoom (haha, get it?) through your last year of high school feeling great but once it reaches your last quarter, your government teacher starts talking about your final research project or your econ teacher announces it’s time for Shark Tank. Then it starts to hit you. You aren’t going to be here next year. On this campus, with these people, experiencing ASB and SA-ran events all for the last time. But that’s why you attempt to make the best of your senior year:

You go to the events.
You join the rancho rooters section.
You make as many memories as you can trying to cling onto that last year of real youth.

For me, that was one of the most important things to do. We weren’t able to do anything for one and a half years:

No dances.
No rallies.
No football games.

Everyday on campus, I make it a priority to try new things, make new memories, and meet new people, all because of the past two years where we couldn’t.

I think one of the things missing is our insanely cherished previous principal Mr. Willborn. I feel bad for the lowerclassmen who didn’t get to experience his love for our school. A day couldn’t go by without seeing his bright and cheery face. He brought so much laughter and unity to our campus. His love and encouragement really pushed us all to do better and be better.

One day, I hope our campus feels like it did before. I hope the culture restores, the spirit is mended, and the love is stronger. Rancho isn’t Rancho without our diversity and unity. I hope the future generations bring life back to the spirit clap. It was so hard to put into words how this school year has felt due to it being so different.

To the other classes, make the best of your high school years. Go to that event you’re unsure about attending, ask whoever you’re thinking about asking to go to that dance, and simply live it like it’s your last day. You never know if you’re going to be gone for longer than what was supposed to be three weeks.