Prefects organize activities

Seniors will celebrate the end of the year with two weeks of special activities.

Tanisha Gunby

Seniors will participate in two weeks of activities to commemorate their time at the school starting May 28 and culminating with commencement June 11.

The celebrations will begin with the last day of school countdown and pool jump, an annual senior tradition. The senior and faculty barbecue, as well as color wars and field games, will occur June 1. Some senior students will present their art and literary works at the senior capstone presentations, followed by an all-school award ceremony June 3. Prom will be held at the Petersen Automotive Museum on June 5, and Senior Transition Day and a graduation celebration are scheduled to take place June 7 and June 9, respectively.

Prefect Council planned the events to ensure that students would experience traditional senior year celebrations.

Head Prefect Jonathan Cosgrove ’21 said Prefect Council, which was actively involved in planning and organizing the senior events, wanted to make sure students would be able to participate in senior events like prom.

“Our goal was to provide students with as many fun activities as possible with friends and teachers before we leave [the school],” Cosgrove said. “The fall was really difficult because the pandemic was so bad, so I’m really glad we can celebrate in person together to end [the year] on a really high note.”

Upper School Dean Sara Brookshire said she anticipates a substantial showing at the events because of the lower COVID-19 positivity rate in the community.

“We expect the events planned for seniors to have a strong turnout from students,” Brookshire said. “With vaccinations on the rise and COVID-19 case rates on the decline, many community members feel much safer taking [part] in socially distanced events. We can’t wait to celebrate our seniors, especially in person, given the limitations to do so earlier in the year.”

Several seniors said they are grateful to experience the activities in person given the remote format of most of the school year.

Natalie Barnouw ’21 said she has valued her time on campus and is excited to participate in the senior festivities.

“Just a few months ago it didn’t seem like we would be able to go back at all, which has made my time here even better,” Barnouw said. “I feel like I appreciate the time I have in person with my friends even more. I think these events will be super fun for seniors, as we are enjoying our last few weeks here at HW with our friends.”

Similarly, Emery Genga ’21 said she feels fortunate to be able to attend these events in person.

“Since so much of my senior year had been spent on Zoom, and since Los Angeles was struggling so badly with coronavirus for such a long time, I honestly didn’t even think we would be coming back to campus,” Genga said. “Having that mindset for so long made the opportunity to be in person for all of these senior events a welcome surprise, and I could not be happier about it.”

Seniors will attend prom as part of the special year-end activities.

Genga said she is thrilled to be able to attend an in-person prom after a year of online events.

“I was almost in tears when I found out we were actually getting an in-person prom this year, as it is such a staple of senior year,” Genga said. “It will also be the first time [in a while] that I, and many others probably, have had the opportunity to dress up, go to a real-life party and feel somewhat normal again.”

During prom, up to 10 people will be able to sit together at a table if they are all fully vaccinated, and students who have not been vaccinated will sit at a table with a maximum of two other students, in accordance with Los Angeles County health guidelines. Those who are vaccinated can share their vaccination card with the prom planners. Sophie Johnson ’21 said she feels more comfortable attending prom because of these safety measures.

“I feel that the school has really made strides to make sure everyone feels and is safe,” Johnson said. “I’m also grateful HW is going above and beyond the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] current guidelines. I think requiring vaccination proof is a smart idea to ensure that everyone remains safe while having fun.”

Students said they are looking forward to connecting with their teachers and peers in person.

Mohona Ganguly ’21 said she is excited to be with both her classmates and teachers during these activities.

“I am most looking forward to the student and faculty barbecue because I would love to spend time with my teachers and to thank them for all that they have given me, and [I’m also looking forward to] senior prom because I am so excited to be able to have fun with my friends for one of the last times before we graduate,” Ganguly said.

Additionally, the senior and faculty barbecue will be a great time to reconnect with faculty members before graduation, Genga said.

“Back in seventh grade, we had a barbecue and pool party at the end of our orientation day, so I feel like this barbecue will be such a lovely bookend to my journey at Harvard-Westlake,” Genga said. “This will also give me the opportunity to reconnect with some of my teachers from previous years. Because we haven’t been on campus for so long, the only teachers I’ve gotten to talk to are my current ones, and even then it was very hard to talk to them over Zoom. So I am looking forward to connecting with more of the wonderful [faculty and] staff before I graduate.”

All in all, Genga said she is thankful for everything the school has done to celebrate the seniors this year.

“I appreciate the faculty for all of the hard work they put in to make the end of senior year special for us,” Genga said. “I know it wasn’t the year we wanted, but it is ending better than I could have imagined.”