Finishing from Home
Graduation. At Mercersburg Academy, this special occasion is defined by Commencement Weekend. The imagery of the graduation platform, lush lawn, and students crossing the stage has been ingrained in every Mercersburg student’s mind. From the beginning of a student’s academic career, this milestone is presented as a promise. But like everything in the pandemic, many Mercersburg traditions have changed, and that includes graduation.
Just about a year ago, I left Mercersburg Academy for spring break, thinking I would be back in around two weeks. Now, I face the reality that I will be virtual for the entirety of my senior year.
Most aspects of being online are just more of the same. I get dry eyes from the computer screen, but I also get to sleep in because of the time zone difference (I'm in Saudi Arabia). I have been lucky that my grades have not suffered. Overall, my online experience has been great. In the end, the biggest changes are instead what I am not doing during my senior year.
Being part of Stony Batter Players, I imagined my last musical would be a huge milestone. When I finished Mamma Mia! last winter, I didn’t understand that this performance would be my last on campus. I felt only a tinge of sadness during the final performance. Sure, I was surprised that it was over, but I couldn’t predict how important that moment would be in retrospect: the last time under the theatre’s stage lights, the last time putting away costumes, heck, even the last time I would see the former seniors in person.
While I may not be able to act in A Chorus Line this spring, I have made sure to stay connected with the Stony Batter community. In the fall, I participated in The Nutcracker and the Mouse King virtually. Even with the musical this spring, I am helping create brochures with Ms. Dowling and Ava Anthony ’23. Even if it is not what I imagined, I am happy to support the group as they pull off another amazing production.
Before I decided to stay virtual my entire senior year, I thought missing Commencement would make me feel terrible. At the best of times, I can experience a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) while scrolling through Instagram. So obviously not graduating on the Commencement platform with everyone else would suck, right?
Oddly, I realized I’m not that sad. I mean, I am disappointed to not come back. If I had the choice to be there or stay home without the pandemic influencing my decision, I would want to go. But after getting university offers, thinking about the future, and reflecting on my time at Mercersburg, I don’t think it really is that important in the grand scheme of things. When I leave high school, I will remember the teachers and my friends and the experiences that will continue to influence me, not the fact that I didn’t physically grab my diploma. So as I approach my virtual graduation, I am excited to move onto the next part of my journey.
I believe I made the right choice not to come back to campus. Considering the travel restrictions, health concerns, and the possibility of getting a vaccine, it made sense to stay put. Still, I sometimes dwell on what could have been, especially when I hear announcements about the whole school being “together” again. But I know that whether I am on the grassy lawn or in my study room, this will be a year to remember.
Chelsea Seaby Bruno ’21 is a spring 2021 communications intern with Mercersburg's Office of Strategic Marketing and Communications. She lives in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.