TOP PHOTO:  These signs acknowledging 270 seniors were placed in their yards last Thursday.

Lauren Taylor, a senior at Campbell County High School, is remaining optimistic about her senior year being cut short.

LAFOLLETTE, TN. (WLAF)- A generation born in the wake of 9/11 is now the group of seniors who saw their last year of high school cut short due to a global pandemic.  It is a turn of events none saw coming.

Yet, School Board Member Lisa Fields, who made that observation, said from those events will come resilient men and women and a strong generation.  Noting their strength, she also empathized with the class of 2020 knowing they will miss so many events that are milestones in a senior year.

One Campbell County High School senior, Lauren Taylor, is remaining positive about her last year in high school being abruptly stopped.  “I can’t focus on the negative. We just have to wait and see what good will come out of this,” Taylor said. She admitted that at times it has been hard to be optimistic about her senior year being cut short due to COVID-19.

“I was so excited for my senior year to start,” she said. Now, weeks after schools were closed when COVID-19 found its way to Tennessee, Taylor said she, like most of her fellow seniors, has had moments when the sadness creeped in. But even at those times, she has found herself flooded with support.  “My mom has been the best.  She keeps telling me things will be fine,” Taylor said. Support has also come in the form of Cara Beth Nidiffer, Taylor’s cheer coach, and the staff at Campbell County High School.  “The (CCHS) staff have really had our backs,” she said.

In what could be called a labor of love, CCHS staff and community volunteers put signs in the yards of CCHS and Jellico High seniors last week to acknowledge their status.  “It was such a surprise,” Taylor said.  She was at work at Terry’s Pharmacy when the sign arrived but coming home and finding it “made the rest of her day,” Taylor said.  “The kids were so excited,” Fields said of the signs. Fields is a first district school board member.  In all, 270 signs were placed for the class of 2020.

With Gov. Bill Lee planning to allow the Safer at Home Order to expire at the end of April, this opened up the possibility of seniors having a commencement.  “There is hope,” Fields said. “We are going to try our best to have a graduation. She cautioned that it would be greatly scaled down from ceremonies in the past, but it would allow the graduates to walk the line and receive their diplomas.  An estimated date would be mid- June, Fields said.

Working within social distancing guidelines and any other restrictions put in place by the state, Fields said guests at the ceremony would be limited but it would allow seniors “to wear their cap and gown.” For those who couldn’t attend, a live stream would be an option to still see their senior graduate.

“They have worked so hard for this,” Fields said of the graduation.

An active teen who has cheered since kindergarten and been involved in community service, Taylor said it is the daily interaction she has missed during COVID-19.  Whether it was friends at school or her patients at Terry’s Pharmacy having those moments cut short has been hard.

“COVID-19 has been a real eye opener. It has helped me realize the small things matter,” Taylor said. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED- 04/22/2020- 6AM)