Avalon Cabrillo Column COVID-19 Jordan Lakewood Long Beach Poly Millikan St. Anthony Wilson

COLUMN: Our Hearts Break For Long Beach Seniors

Meetings of the Long Beach Unified School District’s Board of Education are usually pretty…well, boring. Absent of any fireworks or major disagreements, they’re almost always about an hour of cordial agreement and unanimous votes.

Last week’s meeting was about as far from “usual” as the Board has probably ever gotten. Superintendent Chris Steinhauser announced that the LBUSD’s campuses will be closed through the end of the school year, and that graduation ceremonies have been canceled. What was on display wasn’t just regret over the major disruption to the lives of Long Beach’s 70,000+ students, but genuine sorrow about the memories that will be lost for the high school seniors.

“For our seniors,” said Steinhauser, “this is not anything that any of us wanted you to go through. This is a very sad situation.”

Steinhauser stressed that the district will do everything it can to recognize its seniors, even though the usual large commencement ceremonies won’t be possible, at least on schedule. He said he’s open to postponing the ceremonies until August, or doing something online, or any combination of options, and asked seniors to reach out with feedback.

Each of the board members expressed similar sentiments, with Megan Kerr tearing up during an impassioned message.

“I’m so, so sorry it’s turning out this way and not the way you dreamed of and the way you deserved,” she said.

Talking to JJ the few days after the shutdown was announced, we felt similarly. There’s no time in your life like the last few months before high school graduation, months that feel almost protected against the real world. You’re old enough to drive, to go out with your friends, but you don’t have to worry about rent or bills yet.

That experience has disappeared with a snap for this year’s graduates. Not just their commencement but prom, senior picnics and trips, and so many other opportunities for celebration and reflection. 

Are there bigger concerns for Long Beach, California, and the world? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean it’s not heartbreaking thinking about all those memories that won’t happen, or will happen in a completely unrecognizable way. 

JJ and I spend a lot of our time helping to record those memories that seniors are making–last games, last home runs, last championships. We are acutely aware that those days are irreplaceable.

“This is heartbreaking,” said Poly alum Nailah Waterfield after seeing the news. Waterfield played volleyball at Poly and Duke and now works with a sports agency in New York. “I worked so incredibly hard all throughout high school and after I got into Duke my last few months as a senior were some of the best, most fun days of my life.”

LBUSD students sent us messages about how heartbroken they are, too. Social media was flooded with posts after the news came out, including one heartfelt message from Wilson senior Samiya Terry, recently crowned a CIF-SS basketball champion, and currently the senior class president for the Bruins.

“People need to understand that we were literally slapped with adulthood out of nowhere,” she said. “These couple of months till graduation were supposed to be a little push to the outside world.”

That little push has become an abrupt shove. I know that a lot of adults in Long Beach (myself included) will do everything in our power to try and make this next few months meaningful for the class of 2020. But that doesn’t alleviate the deep sadness I feel, and that I know the seniors feel, about the situation they now find themselves in.


Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.