Until last March, the juniors at Seaside High School had no reason to expect their senior year to play out this way — characterized by online learning, the absence of popular extracurricular programs and in-person social interaction.

“It’s been different, that’s for sure,” senior Emma Taylor said.

Taylor doesn’t mind being able to work at her own pace through the school’s Online Thrive program but she misses the socialization. “It is what it is,” she said.

However, a small group of parents are determined their seniors won’t graduate without some kind of celebration or warm sendoff, and they’ve been organizing fundraisers to make certain that happens. The most recent fundraiser for the Class of 2021 was a recycle drop-off event held last Saturday at the former high school campus.

From late morning to mid-afternoon, community members stopped by the school with loads of recyclable cans and bottles, which a handful of students and parents then sorted into dozens of large garbage bags and lined up inside a hallway of the empty building. Van Dusen Beverages planned to pick up the materials this week, and the money collected from the bottle and can redemption will go to the senior class.

The success of the recycle drop-off was way beyond what was expected, according to Christy Taylor, Emma Taylor’s mother and a driving force behind the fundraising efforts.

It’s a common practice for the parents of seniors to participate in annual fundraising to host a graduation party at the end of the year.

Normally, they raise the bulk of the money for the celebration by running concessions at sporting events.

“This year’s fundraising has been really weird, because we can’t do concession stands, we can’t do our normal stuff,” Emma Taylor said.

The recycle drop-off was one of the creative solutions to that problem.

Led by Christy Taylor, the fundraising group has also conducted a raffle drawing with gift baskets and a handful of other projects. The hope is that they can still throw a grad party for the Class of 2021 after commencement. If not, she said, they may repeat what transpired last year when the grad party had to be canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The seniors instead received goodie bags with gift cards and certificates from local establishments.

The innovative approach to fundraising and the lingering uncertainty about whether a grad party will be possible are not out of place in a year still deeply affected by the ongoing pandemic.

Emma Taylor discussed how several of the clubs she’s involved with are meeting online. The Associated Student Body leaders are collaborating virtually and trying to move forward with different projects feasible under the existing circumstances.

For Key Club, she said, “We’ve been trying to come up with service projects that don’t involve being out in the community, which is what we’re used to.”

Meanwhile, the Oregon chapter of Future Business Leaders of America is planning virtual conferences at least through July and students are preparing online projects.

“That’s been interesting,” Taylor said.

Sarah Sills, another senior who is typically involved in several extracurriculars, said she continues to hope that onsite learning will resume this school year.

“I miss being in-person,” Sills said. “I’d like to at least play soccer this year and do a couple of other things.”

She echoed sentiments similar to her classmates, stating this is “not the way my senior was planned to be.” However, she strives to maintain a positive outlook and continue planning for life after graduation.

“It’s not going to be like this forever,” she said. “And this is my last year, so I want to make the most of it.”

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