One-on-one’s with the senior class officers

By Dylan Desrosiers

It’s another year at NAHS, albeit a little different than years past, but democracy still prevails, having just had the Senior class government elections. Angela Oliynyk was elected the President, Elizabeth Szajda was elected the Vice President, Belle Clarkin was elected the Treasurer, and Alicia Hawe was elected the Secretary.

Being it an important year for senior activities, plus with the added unknown of the pandemic, many students are left with questions. To get a better idea of their plans and goals for the year, I conducted an interview with the four officers. What follows is a transcript of the interview.

Dylan: “Congratulations on being elected as a class officer for our senior year of high school! It’s an important and rewarding position. For most of you, this is not your first time in your position. In fact, Alicia has been the secretary for all four years of high school. How does it feel to be in this position for our most important year of high school?”

Angela Oliynyk, President: “I feel extremely lucky to be in this position for our last year of high school. Especially with the pandemic, I’m so fortunate to be working with such an amazing group of creative people. It is overwhelming with the amount of planning and consideration that will have to be put into each event this year, but we are ready for that challenge.” 

Alicia Hawe, Secretary: “For the most important year of our high school career, it is honestly such a privilege to be able to lead our class, especially during this pandemic. With so many uncertainties, I am humbled to know that my class trusts me with a very important job. Senior officers usually have a huge undertaking, and we do even more-so this year with new challenges. I am very excited to lead our class through this, and am looking forward to coming up with new ideas on how to celebrate our final year of high school!”

Belle Clarkin, Treasurer: “I’m incredibly honored to be a class officer this year. I’m new to the job, and have been learning so much already! I debated with myself about running again, but I am so passionate about making our senior year as good as it can be that I knew I had to run. The group of officers I am with are all fantastic, creative, and driven people. I fully believe that we will all get an unforgettable senior year, and I’ve been very excited to get to work on making that happen.”

Elizabeth Szajda, Vice President: “Being elected as a class officer at any point in time is certainly an amazing accomplishment. As the positions develop throughout high school, new opportunities as well as duties are added such as prom and homecoming. For the Senior class officers, they not only have the expected responsibilities of planning dances or budgeting for graduation, but also the upcoming duty to plan future high school reunions; even in a normal year, these tasks are difficult to achieve. With the pandemic, it is hard to predict how things will turn out and what we can pursue. Even so, I️ am looking forward to collaborating with the other officers and trying to optimize our classes’ high school experience. Regardless of the difficult times, I know that this group of class officers will succeed in making our senior year memorable and exciting, and I️ am honored to have the privilege of representing and leading our senior class.”

Dylan: “Now for the rest of this interview, I’d like to ask you some popular questions that many students have. First, with the pandemic still imposing restrictions on our lives, many events that seniors are looking forward to are in jeopardy. This includes Homecoming, Prom, Graduation, and All-Night Grad Party. What are your initial thoughts? Do you think we will be able to have these events?”

Angela Oliynyk, President: “With the uncertainty of this year, I think it’s important to be prepared for any situation. As class officers, we want to make this a year we are proud of and try our best to celebrate our senior year by modifying these events to fit our current situation. There are a lot of factors to consider for these events, such as handling money, so a lot more thought has to be put into planning prom and other activities. We will be reaching out to our entire class for their ideas and opinions through Google surveys. We are fully aware that this will not be a typical senior year, but we also hope that the number of opportunities for seniors is not limited.”

Belle Clarkin, Treasurer: “My initial thoughts are that the pandemic is not going to go away. That being said, we have time to adapt our plans. We are not able to have these things in the typical way that we do. Having everyone in our school in the gym at the same time for homecoming is unrealistic. As the weather gets warmer towards the end of the year, we can utilize outdoor space for these events. We have ample funds to be able to plan these activities. The answer is not virtual in this case. I don’t want virtual dances, or a virtual graduation ceremony. That being said, we need your input and ideas to help us create an environment that all of us are safe and happy with!”

Alicia Hawe, Secretary: “I completely agree with Belle – unfortunately, we will most likely have to deal with this pandemic the rest of the year. This may jeopardize our traditional end-of-year events, so I can’t promise that we will have a normal prom, graduation, or all-night grad party. I can, however, promise that the class officers will try our best to find ways to have these events in the safest way possible. Ultimately, the decision on whether or not these events will be held comes down to public health and safety experts, but if we are given clearance we will do our best to follow your suggestions  and make our senior year special!”

Elizabeth Szajda, Vice President: “2020 is a year of firsts, and unfortunately some of those firsts include losing things we love like Homecoming or Prom. At the end of the previous school year (June 2020) I️ was hoping for a speedy recovery and all regular events to take place as normal; however, as the year progressed, it became evident that some events may not be plausible. As a senior and class officer, these events mean a great deal to me not only because of the events themselves, but also because of the planning and organizing that goes into each event. Despite our current situation, there is still hope for a prom or homecoming in the spring, and maybe even some new events. Our main priority is the safety and health of our classmates; therefore, we will ensure that any event held or removed this year will be safe, secure, and most importantly enjoyable.”

Dylan: “If restrictions on group sizes, social distancing, and masks are in place, what will you do to ensure that seniors still have the meaningful recognition and celebration that they deserve?”

Angela Oliynyk, President: “In order to prevent the cancellation of many important senior events, we will have many different options in place so that we will be able to adapt to any restrictions. We will also ensure that there is lots of communication between the class officers and administration to ensure that safety procedures are followed during any events. I think it is also important that there is increased communication between the class officers and students so that we hold activities that the entirety of our class is proud of.”

Belle Clarkin, Treasurer: “I want to ensure that we create events that are extra memorable. We don’t have the typical senior privileges of having snow days off, lunch outside, even the senior pit. We want to find other ways that we can have privilege this year. Some ideas for this involve X Block. Additionally, our senior t-shirts are on the way to being ordered. We are planning on having as many events as realistically possible. Luckily, our administration is open to seniors adapting and creating new things not possible in the past in order to enjoy our year.”

Alicia Hawe, Secretary: “Unfortunately, with all these guidelines, seniors cannot even have the traditional “final year of high school” experience with all of their classmates. Being in separate cohorts makes it hard for us to keep in touch with all of our friends, and we almost never see full-remote students. However, the class officers will do as much as they can to make sure that our senior year is every bit as special as it should be. There is talk among the student leaders and administration on new ideas for senior privileges, and we will gladly take any new suggestions that our peers have!”

Elizabeth Szajda, Vice President: “Safety is very important to myself and the other class officers. Obviously these restrictions make it difficult to hold the senior events in a “normal” way, but that does not mean they can not occur. Over this past year, we’ve seen people adapt and evolve to fit with the new “normal,” and I️ know our class can do the same. The new regulations add difficulty to planning and hosting events, but they also make them more memorable. If regulations remain in place for the rest of the year, myself and the other class officers will provide our class with safe activities that may not be the same as before, but will most certainly be unforgettable, momentous, and significant. The events we will have this year will be different, but sometimes different can be good.”

Dylan: “What are your other plans and goals for the year? Any fundraisers? Other special events?”

Angela Oliynyk, President: “So far this year we have been brainstorming ways to adapt to any situation we are faced with. First, we are working on planning events and activities that we know we will be able to hold- whether we are remote or in person. Luckily, we were able to recoup our deposit from our junior prom venue and can use that money towards even better opportunities this year!”

Belle Clarkin, Treasurer: “My plans and goals for this year are creating a year that not only we enjoy under the circumstances, but a year that other classes want to have in the future. We have a substantial amount of funds to make this happen, and we have a group of officers who are really working hard to make everything happen!”

Alicia Hawe, Secretary: “Considering the circumstances, we may not be able to hold any fundraisers or other special events. However, with all of the hard work we put into the last few years, we are in a great position (financially) to still make our year memorable. My goal for this year is to make sure that the Class of 2021 still receives the recognition they deserve for all of their hard work that they put into their high school career.”

Elizabeth Szajda, Vice President: “Regardless of the current situation, I ️am hopeful that we can have a somewhat regular prom or homecoming in the spring. Unfortunately, we are uncertain that these events may happen. My main goal for this year is to ensure that my class enjoys their senior year while also staying safe. If there is a possibility for our class to have a safe prom or graduation, we will. If the regulations remain in place, I️ am certain that myself and the other class officers will come up with new and exciting experiences for our class. With the help of the other class officers as well as the opinions and voices of our classmates, we will make our senior year outstanding.”

Dylan: “One topic that I believe is not being addressed enough by the district administrators, despite this being a part of their reopening plan, is mental health. All around me I see students struggling in one way or another and in varying levels of severity, but not getting the help for it. Is there anything the class officers can do about this? What are you going to do to ensure students are able to stay mentally well, especially this year?”

Angela Oliynyk, President: “With all of the changes occurring during this time, students need more support than ever. It is very difficult to build connections that would be made in a typical school year between teachers and other students so many students feel lonely. This year, we will be trying our best to focus on ways to build these connections with all of the social distancing guidelines. As always, it is important that we continue addressing this issue and educating students, parents, and staff of symptoms and healthy coping mechanisms for mental health problems. I also know that our class officers this year will welcome anyone with open arms if they don’t know who to turn to.”

Belle Clarkin, Treasurer: “Mental health is a crucial aspect to the school year, and I agree that students are not receiving enough support. The High School Helpers program is designed to support students not only academically, but also to help create meaningful relationships and skills such as study and stress management skills. That program’s timeline is projected to begin around the second quarter. In addition, last year we became part of Active Minds. We have not utilized Active Minds as much as possible, and it will be a great tool in facilitating programs and actions to benefit students. Once again, we need your input. Please email your class officers- even DM our Instagram account with feedback, or problems you are having. We will attempt to come up with solutions for every situation, but our biggest resource is you guys. Tell us what you need and want, and our job is to make it happen in a safe and feasible way.”

Alicia Hawe, Secretary: “I completely agree that students are each struggling in their own way this year, likely even more so than they have in the past. Mental Health is very important to talk about, so I just want everyone to know that your class officers are ALWAYS here to talk about and support you with any challenges you may be facing.”

Elizabeth Szajda, Vice President: “Oftentimes, mental health can be overlooked. In this case, the many obstacles of the pandemic and this year can sometimes cause people to forget about the importance of mental health. Luckily, the students at North Attleboro High School as well as the class officers welcome anyone who is struggling with mental health. We [the Senior class officers] care about the health of our classmates, and if an issue arises we will support them no matter what. As Belle mentioned, there are new groups forming to help with mental health which will give struggling students a chance to discuss their situations. If you are struggling with mental health, please do not hesitate to reach out to either the class officers, myself, or anyone you feel comfortable around.”

Dylan: “Is there anything else you would like to say to the class of 2021?”

Angela Oliynyk, President: “In the past our class has always been able to overcome any obstacles we’ve faced. Our ability to work together has allowed us to achieve amazing opportunities in the past and I have no doubt that we can maximize our experience throughout the year with this same spirit. I am so proud to call myself a part of this class and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish this year!”

Belle Clarkin, Treasurer: “First, I want to say thank you for reading- I know my answers have been long! I have so much to say. I think the most important thing we can all do is stay adaptable. We might not be able to have traditional events, but if we have an open mind, we can have different events that are equally important and fun. Lastly, as I’ve continued to say, talk to us! Give us input so we can make sure we are giving every one of our seniors the best year we can possibly have.”

Alicia Hawe, Secretary: “I know this is not at all how we imagined or wanted our senior year to look like, and for that I am truly sorry. But honestly, we have to remember that we’re all in this together and it has brought us closer as a class. I know I personally have been talking to a lot more people than I normally would be, and it’s so nice to know that everyone has each other’s back. I just want to make sure that the Class of 2021 knows that we are here for them, and that we will do whatever we possibly can to make this year OUR senior year!”

Elizabeth Szajda, Vice President: “To the class of 2021: thank you for your support. With your ideas and opinions we will make this year amazing. I️ know we were all hoping for a “normal” year, but at this point, what is “normal”? The events this year might be harder to achieve or look different than before, but that’s what makes them memorable. In the face of adversity, our class has proven time and time again that we will persevere, and I️ am sure that is exactly what we will do this year.”

I would like to thank the class officers for participating in this interview. I thought it was informative and addressed many of the questions students have. I have great confidence in our class officers that they will do their absolute best to support us in every way they can this year. If you have any questions for the class officers, the best way to reach them is through our school email, text, or through the Class of 2021 Instagram page. Thank you to the class officers for all they do!

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