True Mavericks: Class of 2021 shines despite difficult year

In past years, seniors have been at the forefront of student sections at football games and other sporting events, cheering on MHS’ student athletes (Photo courtesy of Bruce Maverick).

In past years, seniors have been at the forefront of student sections at football games and other sporting events, cheering on MHS’ student athletes (Photo courtesy of Bruce Maverick).

Riley Coesens, Editor in Chief


When asking about the Class of 2021, its students are referred to with words such as engaged, diligent, and ambitious. They are respectful and resilient, and they are understanding, mature, and hard working.

Despite being remembered as “the COVID class,” the Class of 2021’s students graduating this June have made a tremendous impact on the community and will continue to build upon the characteristics that will make them missed members of Milford.

Simply put, “The Class of 2021 is one of the best all around classes we’ve had in a while,” said David Gilbert. “It’s unfortunate that we were not able to have a normal school year, as I feel like this class would have had more opportunities to shine even brighter.” The Class of 2021’s students have captured the true meaning of being a Maverick throughout their time at Milford High School.

Combining a dedication to academics with a global pandemic has been no easy task for many, but this year, seniors in particular showed extensive willingness to adapt: “They have had to go through nearly a year and half of their high school career with constant change while dealing with the unexpected,” MHS Principal Kevin McKenna shared. “When so many adults had a difficult time dealing with this past year and half, this class handled it extremely well.”

Maintaining connectivity in the classroom and among students and staff has been a critical factor in the flexibility of seniors in an ever-evolving final year of high school. Some commonly heard statements in recent months are “it is what it is” and “just make the most of it.” Even so, with the continuation of class-wide academic, athletic, and arts excellence, “We pushed the limits of other classes before us,” said Senior Kristen Schang.

The Class of 2021 refused to settle for such simplistic perspectives of the impact they could have on Milford during their remaining year, particularly once in-person school resumed for the masses: “I feel that I’ve been able to truly understand that temporary problems don’t define us or our work, one bad test doesn’t define years of work. I think the ability to overcome the problems of quarantine and still make the year fun is what makes the Class of 2021 stand out,” Senior Nathan Herron said. “We watched and took notes from the Class of 2020 and stayed optimistic about the future of our senior year, and we came out having a semi-return to normalcy.”

Through both virtual and in-person means, spending time with friends, teammates, and peers contributed to the seniors’ spiritedness. Put together by the MHS Senior Parent Planning Committee, the monthly senior events were a highlight for many, including Senior Sam Spray.

“My favorite part of senior year has been the events that the parents put on for us,” Spray stated. “Although we were unable to have any of the school-sponsored events that seniors normally partake in, like football games, [a traditional] Senior Sunrise, etc, the parents stepped up to the plate to give us events at which we could make memories to replace some of what we lost.”

Spray mentioned just a few of the countless traditional experiences that seniors missed out on this year: Homecoming, spirit weeks, the charity dance, student sections at sporting events, and unmodified extracurricular seasons are just a few more.

Nonetheless, the senior parents successfully hosted a multitude of low-cost, COVID-safe bonding events, including the Senior Sunrise, a trip to Three Cedars Farm, the parents versus seniors Road Rally, the drive-in football tailgates, a trip to the Detroit Zoo Wild Lights, Senior Secret Santa, a Destruction Depot night after midterms, the Sponsor-A-Senior program, and soon to be celebrated, the Senior All-Night Party.

“From the very first day, the senior parents set out to overcome obstacles, with the belief that there is always a way,” said Senior Parent Planning Committee member Kathy Spray. “We knew that we couldn’t replace the things lost, but we also knew we could still make moments and memories.”

The challenges of the past year have led to more student, parent and staff creativity. Curiosity and genuine interest in learning have pushed students to do their best during difficult times.

“I think I answered more out-of-left-field, bizarre, funny, excellent questions from this class than any other,” said English teacher Nathan Flynn. “I loved having discussions with this grade because they truly seemed interested in knowing more about the world around them and pushed me to be prepared for anything and provide adequate answers. The inquisitiveness and desire to push boundaries–I loved it.” It was these students’ ability to seek positivity that aided them most. “I learned that students who want to learn, can,” Math teacher Julie Mitchell stated. “They can roll with the punches and adapt no matter how hard it gets.”

Though the educational aspects have played a major role in the students’ perception of their places at Milford, there are many other factors that seniors attribute to their success.

“I think the Class of 2021 stands out because we’re competitive in every way possible–in sports, music, academics, art, and more,” said Senior Sydney White. “We’ve been working so hard all through high school and a global pandemic, and I think it shows more.”

The togetherness that seniors have cultivated throughout their childhoods has only been strengthened by the upheaval of a modified year: “What stood out to me during high school [has been] the camaraderie shown by the school,” said Senior Josh Raya. “No matter what sport and who a person is, there’s always someone there to stick up for you and who wants to be there.”

Despite overcoming many obstacles themselves, teachers have noticed how relentlessly the Class of 2021 has fought to make valuable contributions. “To be able to change their method of education and schedule about every six weeks and still be coming and working in their classes definitely makes them very memorable,” Business teacher Kaye Sommer explained. “Any time you have experienced a trial–whether mental or physical–those people that dug in and tried to make it work, those are the people you miss.”

It goes without saying that all individuals face hardships. All individuals must explore new possibilities, and grow from past experiences. All individuals must search for opportunities and take them when they arise, and all individuals need to become accountable for their actions.

These are invaluable lessons learned by young people in high school, pandemic or not. But the Class of 2021 has found contentment in all that has reformed what they thought their senior year would look like, as it has prepared them with humility and gratitude to strive for what they desire.

“Any sense of normalcy we get is a win at this point,” expressed Senior Alexa Cheaney. “Nothing is as permanent as it may seem, things will fall into place, and the right people will come.” Ultimately, it is one’s own commitment to growth that will lead him/her to prosper; Mitchell advises students to “believe you are good enough to move forward to the next step, whatever that is. And, when you lay down to go to sleep each night, be proud of yourself and what you accomplished that day.”

As intimidating as it can be, high school possesses limitless potential for students to discover new friendships, interests, bonds, and insights. “My favorite part of high school was being able to find myself. In time, I figured out what worked best for me, which helped me mature into the person I am today,” Senior Laura Nowicki said. “Don’t be afraid to befriend different types of people. It’s easy to become friends with people who are similar to you, but the more you branch out, the more you will feel comfortable.” Each person one encounters has something to share with those around them; the empowerment that comes from knowing that a single person can make a difference is what Gilbert feels is most crucial for seniors to understand: “I hope you leave Milford High School understanding that you ALL have great value to offer this world,” he expressed. “Go chase your passions and make it your goal to have a positive impact on those you interact with daily.”

It’s easy for anyone to ponder all that could have been or all that may occur for others after graduation. Underlying frustrations from this year’s seniors may never be resolved, but ultimately, the Class of 2021 has prevailed with tenacity and authenticity, and has seen firsthand that fairness is not reality. Armed with experiences and unique memories to last a lifetime, it’s time for them to venture from Milford’s walls.

To commemorate the unideal situations this class has had to face, Spray urges seniors to reflect on an anecdote of their childhood. “As you walk out the high school door on Graduation Day, take with you the happy memories of all things Maverick, learn from the things that didn’t go the way you wanted, and then watch that clip from the Lion King movie when Rafiki hits Simba over the head with a stick. You know the one–Rafiki swings, Simba says, ‘Geez, what was that for?’ and Rafiki says, ‘It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past…The past can hurt, but you can either run from it or learn from it.’ When Rafiki swings at Simba again, Simba ducks out of the way, takes Rafiki’s stick away, and then sets out to return to the pride,” Spray shared.

“Dear Class of 2021: duck the stick and go rule the world.”