EDITOR'S NOTE: The Daily Republic is featuring seniors in central- and southeastern South Dakota for a "Senior Year Stolen" series. We've selected seniors who are focused in several interests, such as athletics, FFA, rodeo, fine arts and others. Included is an essay we've asked them to write. The topic is, "Tell us how will being a senior in 2020 during the pandemic impact the rest of your life?"


CHAMBERLAIN — For four years, Grace DuVall did everything to make high school a memorable experience.

She participated in concert choir, show choir, all-state choir, fall play, gymnastics, student council, international diplomacy camp and national security camp, all while achieving a 4.136 grade point average to earn valedictorian honors this year for Chamberlain High School.

All of DuVall’s extracurricular activities and academic achievements put her in a position to attend the University of South Dakota to major in international studies in the fall in hopes of pursuing a career as a diplomat.

But DuVall did not keep a hectic schedule for glowing college applications, she did so out of pure enjoyment and a desire to milk each moment of her time in Chamberlain.

Then the coronavirus brought it all to halt, robbing DuVall of the moments that would culminate four years of work and a dozen years of relationships built.

“Your senior prom, graduation, the senior awards night, the senior athletic banquet — those are your rewards for working hard through high school,” DuVall said. “For putting in all the work, dealing with all the stress, you get to graduate and these are your rewards. To have them basically ripped away is disappointing and frustrating.”

Like many, DuVall has dreamt of attending her senior prom and her high school graduation since sixth grade. Those are pivotal moments for any high school student, but she understands the loss of certain experiences such as prom will wash away over time.

She won’t, however, be able to replace the final three months of time with lifelong friends, many of whom will be venturing on different life and career paths in the coming months.

“You do your homework and listen to teachers, but you’re also surrounded by classmates and friends and you get to talk to them about your future plans,” DuVall said. “We’re just finalizing and finishing our relationships. To have that suddenly cut off -- I’m still doing my homework and taking my tests, I just don’t have that friend to joke around with at lunch.”

Chamberlain is holding out hope for a late-June graduation ceremony, but with so many events already canceled, DuVall is wary of it coming to fruition.

Even if she has come to grips with the idea of not being able to deliver her valedictorian speech, being denied the chance to walk across the stage to receive her diploma is the missing chapter to cap her childhood.

“I think there’s a difference between a high school graduation and a college graduation,” DuVall said. “High school graduation is the end of your childhood. You’re moving on, you’re moving out of the house, you’re moving away from people you’ve known since first grade. It’s like the end of an era.”