Hindsight 2020: School closure brings bittersweet ending for seniors

Michael Tortorich
Plaquemine Post South

Hailee Rome may have been on crutches, but she still beamed a wide smile on softball picture day.

Insisting on “making lemonade out of lemons,” as the old saying goes, the Ascension Catholic senior looked forward to recovering from a knee injury sustained during a tournament on March 7.

While on the road to recovery, the coronavirus pandemic forced school to close and the spring sports season to end abruptly.

As it became evident that games would be canceled, her teammates stood behind her as she ceremonially pitched for possibly the last time of her career. 

Margo Castro, who assists the team in many ways, including recording statistics, captured a moving photo of the senior in the circle.

For seniors and parents, the closures and cancelations have been difficult and emotional.

Desiree Mollere’s son, Clenard Mollere Jr., is the last of her five children to graduate high school.

We were all looking forward to his last prom, class night, graduation, etc., but we understand the severity of this virus and the importance of all lives,” Desiree Mollere said. “So, hopefully it can be postponed until a later date.”

One bright spot for the Mollere family came March 11. A star basketball player for the Donaldsonville Tigers, Mollere signed with Alameda College in Alameda, California, to continue his studies and playing career.

Ascension Catholic seniors Nicholas Hilliard and Jai Williams are exceptional student-athletes as well. Hilliard signed a football scholarship with Princeton in February, while Williams signed with Nicholls State.

Shari Hilliard, Nicholas’ mother, said the school closure has been difficult for her son’s class since they are such a close-knit group.

They have been together since Pre-K, and to miss out on celebrating the culmination of all of their accomplishments over the years is very hard, but they are resilient and they are a family. They will survive this,” Shari Hilliard said.

Landon Falcon is a member of the Ascension Catholic power-lifting team. A week after the regional meet, the state championship meet was postponed.

Hopefully, we’ll get the chance to see him compete at the meet one last time,” said Blaire Falcon, his sister. “Our community is very strong and we will get through these difficult times.”

Landon’s mother, Sonia Falcon, said her son’s graduation is special due to her battle with cancer throughout his high school years.

I was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, his freshman year, and fought every day to get better,” she said. 

After going into remission in 2017, she looked forward to seeing her youngest child graduate.

We will miss his last mass as a student at ACHS, his last walk on campus, him telling his first grade buddy goodbye. It’s upsetting but also exciting to say that I am alive every day to see my son and one day see him graduate,” she said. 

Kelly Shally’s son, Connor, plays for the Bulldog baseball team. She agreed the last few weeks have been bittersweet. 

He can’t be with his friends during these last few days of school,” Kelly Shally said. “I think that’s the hardest. His class is a close group. But we do what we can to survive, and like the saying goes, ‘This too shall pass.’”

As of now, safety is the top priority.

We can celebrate and make these things happen for them later,” she said.

Kim Latino said her daughter, Ashlyn Montero, will miss making memories with her Ascension Catholic classmates.

Making that one last walk on and off campus with the small class of 30 kids who pretty much grew up with each other for the last 12 or 13 years is probably the most heartbreaking,” Kim Latino said.

After graduation, Ascension Catholic senior Sophie Sternfels plans to attend FranU in the fall.  

Her mother, Sadie Sternfels, said her daughter and classmates have had the “rug pulled out from under them” since school closed.

This is her family,” Sternfels said. “They were definitely going out with a bang. This has knocked the wind out of Sophie, but as always, she will get back up fighting, as will the rest of her class.”

Rebecca Rome said her daughter, Catherine, has missed her classmates and attending class.

This senior class of AC is unbelievably strong and extremely close. Cat missed out on her state power-lifting meet, but the memories she made at AC will last a lifetime. These young ladies and men have a bright future. We love them so much,” she said. 

Angelle and Owen Theriot were just beginning the softball and baseball seasons when everything came to a  halt. 

The last few weeks have been emotionally difficult, but they both realize the importance of social distancing,” Teisha Theriot, their mother, said. “They keep praying their family and friends are safe and that we can get back to some normalcy soon.”

Gary Paul Millet lll, who goes by “Trey,” was in the middle of a successful tennis season to close his senior year at Ascension Catholic. 

He loves serving as a Eucharistic Minister and singing in the choir at weekly masses,” his father, Gary Millet Jr., said. “He was looking forward to his last weekly masses, tennis matches, the prom, and graduation.”

We pray for an end to all of this and that the seniors get to finish the year strong and come out even stronger than they already are,” he said. 

Ascension Catholic Principal Sandy Pizzolato’s oldest daughter, Katie Pizzolato, was a key pitcher and infielder on the Bulldogs softball team.  

I’m so thankful for the memories,” Sandy Pizzolato said. “COVID-19 cannot take those memories away. Her classmates are family and they will be forever Bulldogs. The future is bright for this class. I can’t wait to see them use the gifts God gave them as they move into another chapter in their lives. Love my seniors!”

Ascension Catholic’s administrators posted a slideshow video compilation of photos from throughout the 2019-2020 school year. Set to the song “Look Up Child” by Lauren Daigle, the video showcased the memories of the senior class.

You’ve done amazing things this year and we’re so proud of you,” the post stated. “Keep looking up. Be hopeful. This is not your end, but only your beginning.”