As the cloud of COVID slowly lifts, it has left the world changed. No student body in the planet’s history has ever experienced learning through a virtual vapor like the graduating class of 2021.
In January 2020 the world was filled with know-it-alls. By March no one really knew anything-at-all. Families, teachers, and students were forced to reimagine life as they knew it. Through the lockdown lives were lost, lessons were learned, and a new language of words and action appeared.
Zoom did not exist as a way of life in March 2020. Yet, generationally, Zoomers are the next Boomers. Virtual reality was an experience in game rooms. Virtual learning was a specialized lane for education. Who knew what asynchronous learning meant? A vaccine was something you took for the flu, not something to save your life. Systemic racism was given a voice when George Floyd’s murder woke the world up last May. Anti-Asian hate crimes and mass shootings were on the rise. Students rose in protest and solidarity to demand change and social justice for people of color. And, in the dawning of 2021, democracy ran amok in a tangled web of lies, insurrection, and threats of voter suppression.
Through it all, students, teachers, and community rose to the occasion to help reshape the world. Educators revised their curriculum to reflect and acknowledge the country’s deeply rooted inequities. At every North High School virtual meeting and student celebration Principal Scott Wolf launched with a land acknowledgment.
“We acknowledge the indigenous history of the Denver region and Colorado more broadly. Where we stand is the ancestral homeland of several tribal nations – the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Ute, and Sioux. The history of our country is deeply rooted in inequity. We wake up every morning and the first thing we do is put our feet on indigenous land. This is why we start our time together by grounding ourselves in recognition of those who have come before us and the actions we can all take for a more loving and inclusive future.”
Eight seniors showed leadership as the “Student Board of Education Team.” Reverend Brad Laurvick, North Denver’s Denver Board of Education representative, acknowledged them, “This team has worked to address social justice issues impacting North High School and the broader Denver community. This year they have worked to address diversity in Advanced Placement classes, inclusion of students in the MI center, and remote learning.” Willa Polman received a Student Board of Education medallion for her leadership within this group as a representative of North at district gatherings.
During the last week of school, North’s Black Masque theatre brought the theatre stage streaming into people’s homes with the musical, “Working” in order to retain
the importance of the arts. Class President, Shaina Walsh, was awarded the Black Masque Scholarship from the alumni foundation for her dedication to the craft. Fellow thespians and stagecraft designers, Bella Robison, Alexas Reyes, and Shane Wolf also received scholarships paving their way towards the future.
One of the most complex issues for the class of 2021 was the college application process. With limited access to visiting campuses, virtual meetings courted prospective graduates. North has a whopping 73% of the class moving on to higher education.
The North Side High School Alumni Scholarship Foundation (NSHSASF) has awarded over 250 Viking Scholarships since 2000. This year, $82,000 was granted to 39 seniors. The scholarships are based on academic, artistic, leadership, community service, and athletic prowess. Scholarship Chairperson, Elisa Cohen said, “We are so honored to help this very deserving group of North High students. We wish we had more scholarships to meet their needs. Our foundation is actively seeking donors who wish to join us in helping deserving students attain their academic dreams.” To learn more about sponsoring a scholarship for North High graduates, contact Joe DeRose at 720.878.4153 or Donna Lucero at 303.902.1744.
These were the forces that shaped the lives of 271 North High School and the North Engagement Center seniors who miraculously came together on May 27 at Infinity Park in Glendale to celebrate their true grit and Viking spirit as the class of 2021. Principal Wolf reflected, “Vikings, you all have risen to one of the greatest challenges to face our society and while this pandemic has truly been awful, from the ashes, you will all rise as leaders. Leaders who will stand up in the face of injustices for justice. Leaders who will reach out when someone is in need of a helping hand. Leaders who will push innovations while valuing cultures. Leaders who will embrace hard work, empathy, compassion and trust. Leaders who will represent the legacy of North since 1883.”