The Class of 2021

Grade 12 was not what they imagined: no prom, no varsity teams, no senior trip. But these teens survived the quadmester system and made their way through online school. Here’s how they coped—the good and the bad—and what they’re doing next

Rayne Daprato, 18

School: Riverdale Collegiate
Neighbourhood: The Danforth
What’s next: Political science and juris doctor at the University of Ottawa

I’ve been dreaming of prom since I was seven. My friends and I were obsessed with High School Musical, and I fully pictured going with Zac Efron as my date. Now I think I’d pick Harry Styles, but otherwise, nothing has changed. Don’t get me wrong—I understand that there has been so much tragedy in the past year, and I’m not comparing that to missing a big dance party. But when you’ve spent most of your life dreaming about these massive milestones, it really sucks to have to give them up. I guess you could say I’m a keener: president of the athletic association, grad committee, yearbook. I play ice hockey and field hockey and I do track. I was really excited about these things, and they just weren’t the same online.

The Class of 2021

The hardest part of this past year has been not seeing people. I’ve kept in touch with a few close friends, but school is more than that—it’s your random locker neighbour or the person you sit beside in math. All these little interactions and relationships that no longer exist. The world has gotten so much smaller. My bed is also my desk. If you want to know how bored I am, I’ve probably reorganized the furniture in my bedroom five times at this point. I’m so sick of being in the same environment, but at the same time, there are days when I don’t feel motivated to do anything but stay in bed. I was lucky to have a couple of friends who would come by and force me to go out for walks—socially distanced and masked up, but at least it was a break.

My older brother, Deane, was born with cerebral palsy. He’s non-verbal and needs help with daily tasks like meal preparation and changing TV channels. My family has been talking about sharing our experiences for a while now. Before Covid, we could never find the time between my sports, Deane’s medical appointments and my parents’ work. Now we have a lot of time. And so my one pandemic silver lining is that my family started a podcast. It’s called A Bumpy Road, and it’s about adapting to disability as a family.

On the podcast we share personal experiences and funny stories. One of the main goals is to let other families in similar circumstances know that they’re not alone. In some ways, my family was better prepared for the pandemic than most. The last year has forced a lot of people to abandon all their previous plans and adjust to a new reality. My parents already did that when my brother was born.

Normally we get help from in-home caregivers, but during lockdown that wasn’t an option anymore. Managing Deane’s care during Covid has required additional effort, but we’re lucky he’s able to live at home with us. Some of his friends live in congregate care settings where they were dealing with outbreaks and unable to see loved ones—one of his friends got Covid and died from complications. I can’t even imagine how heartbreaking that would be. We’ve all had to be especially careful because of my brother’s condition. I don’t mind making the sacrifice, but it can definitely be hard seeing friends flouting the rules and posting videos on Insta where everyone is hanging out together inside. I don’t want to be too judgmental, but I see that kind of selfish behaviour and feel like some people just don’t get it.

One nice thing about my school is that we do commencement in the fall rather than grad in the spring, so I’m hoping we’ll all get to come together in caps and gowns in the fall. I’m going to the University of Ottawa to do a six-year program that combines political science and law. When the program is done, I’ll have a law degree and a bachelor of science. I want to focus on social justice issues—especially accessibility. We’ve seen so many examples of how our society needs to change. I want to help our government pay attention to underrepresented groups. Maybe I’ll even go into politics myself. We’ll see. I figure I have plenty of time to plan my future. For now, I’d like to hang out with my friends and have a fun summer.

—As told to Courtney Shea