Rain or shine, students fight for normalcy - Albuquerque Journal

Rain or shine, students fight for normalcy

Sophomores Natavious Stallworth and Aurelia Tapia hold hands as they arrive at Highland High School’s homecoming dance Saturday. Students have fought to regain a sense of normalcy following years impacted by the pandemic. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Many students haven’t had a normal year of high school yet.

After their freshman year was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of today’s seniors spent their sophomore and junior years learning remotely or under some sort of pandemic precautions.

Donning tan, flowery boots and a white, rhinestone-fringed cowgirl hat adorned with pink feather garland and flame patterns, Highland High School student body president Jamie Medina was ready to jump right back into the swing of things for homecoming this year.

“I feel like we missed so much during COVID,” the senior said Thursday, ahead of the homecoming game. “It really taught you (that) not everything is guaranteed … but this year, we’re really giving it our all.”

The Wild West was the theme – “Howdy Hornets, it’s (homecoming),” the kids said. Many, including the school mascot Herbie, strutted about homecoming festivities in cowboy hats, boots and other getup. The dance, at the school itself, was on Saturday.

Overhead the football game on Thursday though, dark, ominous clouds drizzled light rain, melting through many of the paper streamers decorating Milne Stadium.

But the Hornets refused to let that dampen their spirits – they just clustered near or under shelter, and replaced some of the streamers.

That’s because students have fought hard to regain a sense of normalcy, planning homecoming festivities months in advance and pushing their classmates to come out to school events to help bring them back to full force.

“Slowly but surely, we’re getting our numbers back,” sophomore class president Amara Ortiz said. “We worked for it,” her senior counterpart, Jahaira Martinez, added.

The return to “normalcy” has also reached the classroom, English teacher Bethany Spratley said. As opposed to last year, when she said teachers often had to deal with social-emotional issues before getting to lessons, students are much more social and eager to jump into group projects.

“I’m just excited that we’re here and that we’re back in full force,” she said. “It’s going to be a great year … it’s gotten off to a really good start.”

Students’ hard work seemed to pay off. Hundreds turned out to the game Thursday night to cheer for Highland, which prevailed over Hope Christian School 28-0. Students and families mingled seamlessly, cheering heartily when the Hornets scored and occasionally ringing a cowbell, which was especially in keeping with the homecoming theme.

Still, the dark clouds continued to loom overhead all through the first half of the game. Finally, at halftime, an announcer notified the crowd that they’d need to clear out over concerns about lightning in the area.

Fans waited almost an hour and a half for the game to resume. Many trickled out, but a steadfast fraction of the crowd kept waiting, riding out the storm. Harmony Jenkins, a contender for homecoming queen, was among them.

Finally, the rain and lightning seemed to let up. Fans filtered back through the gates of the stadium and resumed their seats in the bleachers. Jenkins and a group of other homecoming court hopefuls clustered in the corner of the field, waiting for their cue.

Unfortunately, the storm wasn’t over yet.

As the homecoming party walked to the 50-yard line to wait for the results of the coronation ceremony, the skies unleashed another downpour, soaking anyone without an umbrella, raincoat or other means of protection.

Even through the rain, the crowd could hear Jenkins’ name being called, and roared their approval. Drenched, she came off the field beaming, unfazed by the storm.

For her, it was almost as if the fact that she was denied a normal high school experience the past two years had been washed away by the downpour.

“This rain has not put a damper on me – I’m overjoyed,” the new homecoming queen said. “This is a core memory, I’m going to be telling my kids about this.”

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