COVID-19 and the Class of 2020: A future scientist on what students really think of school

The third in a series by WTOP’s Kate Ryan on local high school seniors and how they’re coping with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the end of their school careers.

Student: Amadu Bah, 18
School: Watkins Mill High School, Gaithersburg, Maryland
Future: Hope College, Holland, Michigan
Intended major: Pre-Med
Career goals: Neuroscience/clinical psychology

Amadu Bah says something adults don’t normally hear from high school students: “You know, as high school students we complain about going to school every day, and we talk about how we dislike it. In reality, there’s nothing like that in-person experience.”

Amadu Bah will graduate from Watkins Mill High School and study pre-med. (Courtesy Amadu Bah)

Some seniors who’ve spent the last quarter of their senior year in quarantine talk about feeling cheated of the rituals around graduation, and Bah says he feels some of that.

He’d envisioned the days around graduation as a way to acknowledge the relationships that make high school so special. “To share good times, to say your formal goodbyes to not only your peers, but also the staff that’s helped you throughout the four years.”

Instead, he wakes up to emails from friends and teachers. “And it’s emotional.”

He’s not the only one who’s disappointed: Bah said his parents were looking forward to watching their oldest son get his diploma. “Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.”

COVID-19 and the Class of 2020

Bah, 18, took advantage of College Tracks, a program available in a number of Montgomery County schools that helps students navigate the college application process.

He described the staff as supportive and persistent, helping search for financial aid and polishing application essays. “I’ve gotta give a shoutout to the people at College Tracks — Miss Rula, Miss Bridgette, Miss Rahel and all of the wonderful staff that have helped me and my peers out, for sure.”

Bah said it wasn’t always easy to maintain focus attend classes during classes in cyberspace. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m a senior and, you know, the whole ‘senior-itis’ thing that goes around, but definitely the drive and the will to do work has decreased.”

His future plans keep him motivated, though: He plans to attend Hope College, in Holland, Michigan, where he wants to get on the pre-med track. He’d like a career in neuroscience.

At Watkins Mill, he helped create a Wellness Club, which has proven timely given the anxiety and questions around the coronavirus pandemic. Bah said the focus was on mental health as well as encouraging safe practices to prevent the spread of the virus.

WTOP's Kate Ryan talks with Amadu Bah about going to college.

Bah said Hope College has advised that classes will be held on campus, but that the dining halls will be closed; students will have to take their meals in their rooms, and “non-essential” activities such as clubs will be suspended depending on the course of the virus.

Asked what he would tell other graduating seniors eager to see some sort of return to normalcy and to get back together with friends before heading off to college, Bah said, “Just be patient — hold on tight so we can end this quicker. Don’t be selfish and think about yourself. Think about the collective American people.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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