LIVINGSTON- Several Park High School students jumped onto a Zoom call Thursday afternoon, with members of the Park County community to discuss what it’s like to be a graduating senior during this troubling time of COVID-19.
Students discussed how their lives have changed during the coronavirus pandemic, especially during a time that is supposed to be filled with tradition, school spirit, and celebrations.
Ciara Madden was one of the seniors on the call. Her senior year was impacted, but her perspective is to remain positive.
“This isn’t a defining moment in my life,” Madden said. “If I want something to be a defining moment in my life- I'm the person that can do that.”
Students admitted missing out on the full senior year experience has been hard; they’ve missed out on senior trips, prom, and the all-night senior party.
But what these high school seniors thought was yet another Zoom, took an exciting turn when a special member of the Park County community stepped up to join the conversation – music-superstar John Mayer.
“I just want to say congratulations, (to the class of 2020)” Mayer said.
Madden said she thought it was one of her classmates and not Mayer – she said it ran through her mind that the fellow student was late to the call.
“His name showed up first and then he showed up and I said, 'That’s John Mayer!' Madden said.
Mayer told the students that despite missing out on a seemingly traditional high school experience, every student’s high school experience is what they make it.
“It’s already hard, people already graduate high school and there’s uncertainty,” Mayer said. “And to have the sort of traditional uncertainty on top of this novel uncertainty puts you in a position where you are more responsible for your future than most people have ever been…that is a really admirable thing.”
For Mayer, his high school experience revolved around his guitar – something that set him apart from his other classmates.
“[His advice was] very helpful, because I know he has a large voice in the community,” Madden said. “Having him in Livingston a long time, and seeing how life works around here, I thought was really cool… [he is] someone who has seen it all and I thought what he said was very impactful.”
Allison Brennan, a journalist and volunteer host of the Park County Health Department podcast, took this as an opportunity to help the class not only feel like their voice had been heard, but feel special at the same time.
“We wanted to make sure that the kids knew how much their community values them and how proud we are of their accomplishments,” Brennan said. “It's pretty cool that John spent almost an hour with them offering advice, listening to their concerns and getting to know them. It's that dedication to our friends and neighbors that make Livingston such a wonderful place to live.”
Each student shared their post-high school plans with Mayer, asked him several questions on a wide range of topics, and discussed what quarantine looks like for him.
Mayer added that if his mistakes can serve as a road-map to others' success, he is happy to be on display.
“Whatever you pull out of this that is good, and I think that there will be some things that are good you take out it,” Mayer said. “I think adaptability is going to be the trait you look back on and go, Oh wow, that's what I'll draw on [in the future.]”
And for Mayer, he said that’s a skill these Park County seniors will take with them for the rest of their lives.
“I remember when I was about to graduate high school, and then they told us there was a pandemic,” Mayer said. “They stopped everything, and that was okay- so this situation x number of years and x number of months later, I can draw on this because I've done this before.”
Throughout the conversation, Mayer provided the students with hope for what their next chapters will bring. Mayer brought up what was for him one of the best things about going to college – that students get a clean slate.
“I’ve just never been more sure that a generation had it, and I’ve never been more sure that a high school had it because I understand this town well enough to know that this is a beautiful town that creates really beautiful people,” Mayer said. “I’m just really sure that you guys are going to have a really good run of things and I just send you my best for years and years and years to come.”
One student added that quarantine has made them appreciate the state of Montana and where they live in a new way, and having someone like Mayer be an active part of the community, and taking part in the call puts into perspective that people really care about the senior class.
“[This] gives people in Livingston hope, they look up to him (Mayer) as a role model maybe, or they look up to him knowing that he wants better for Livingston and he really cares about it,” Madden said. “He's always doing stuff that we probably don't even know about for Livingston and I think that's really impactful.”