Los Alamos High School Kicks Off Senior Takeover Week Monday: Activities Planned Through Graduation Day

Los Alamos High School senior class president Audrey Nolen with one of the yard signs designed by Kari Masson and distributed to Topper seniors. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

Los Alamos High School senior class sponsor Lori Thompson has been busy lining up all kinds of stuff for graduating seniors, including T-shirts like the one she is holding, which were donated by UNM-LA. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com MAIRE O’NEILL

Los Alamos High School Class of 2021 is kicking off Senior Takeover Week Monday with Commitment Day. The week’s activities are designed to make memories and celebrate seniors during their last week of school.

Senior class president Audrey Nolen and Class of 2021 sponsor Lori Thompson sat down with the Los Alamos Reporter to chat about how things are going since the class got to come back to school in-person.  Both Nolen and Thompson are excited about this week’s activities and everything that is planned between now and graduation day May 29.

“Senior Takeover Week is kind of like a spirit week that’s just for seniors. Monday is Commitment Day and we’re encouraging everyone to wear shirts from the branch of the military they’re joining or the college they’re going to. Whatever they’re doing, even if it they are taking a gap year, we want to celebrate,” Nolen said.

Tuesday is Throwback Tuesday where seniors will dress the way they would have in elementary school and Wednesday is Senior Sleep-In Day although Nolen said they still want seniors to come to school but in pajamas or something super casual.

On Thursday seniors get to dress like they believe they will be dressing in 50 years for Senior Citizen Day.

Thompson said community groups such as the Kiwanis Club, the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation and UNM-LA have stepped up to purchase special yard signs and T-shirts for the seniors, and on Friday they will all be wearing their shirts.

Friday’s main activity will be Senior Sunset, which is conveniently the last day of school and May 21, “As in Class of ‘21”, Nolen said. Seniors will have a chance to hang out and play some music.

Thompson said the idea behind Senior Sunset is that in the fall, seniors do a Senior Sunrise where they tell their hopes and dreams for the year.

“In fall of 2020, seniors did it individually and for the Sunset event we will talk about what their hopes and dreams were for the year and if they were actualized. Normally we have it written on a piece of paper to give it to them, but we didn’t do that this year because of COVID. It’s the last chance for them to get together and wish each other well and all that,” she said.

Throughout the week, seniors will be encouraged to be proud of what they are doing and what they have done at Los Alamos High School. Senior finals will finish up Thursday and Friday.

The following week, May 23-29, seniors will be doing stuff outside school, culminating with graduation on May 29. On Wednesday, May 26, seniors will attend a virtual senior class meeting and pick up their caps and gowns. They will also have their senior picnic at Mesa Field. All activities will incorporate COVID-safe practices.

“The senior picnic will be catered by Chartwells. We love Chartwells. They have been very supportive of us,” Nolen said.

Thursday morning May 27, will be an exciting time for the seniors as well as for staff and students at all five elementary schools when each senior gets to walk through their elementary school and be celebrated for their accomplishments.  

On Friday, May 28, seniors will participate in the all-important graduation ceremony practice at Sullivan Field which is where the ceremony is to be held.

“This is really exciting because we’re going to be able to do it in person. We’re going to have the seniors there in person on the bleachers and then everyone gets five tickets for guests who will be seated in groups on blankets on the field itself,” Nolen said. “I don’t want to say it will be traditional but students will be able to walk the stage. Also individual ceremonies will be held afterwards at the Blackbox Theater on campus just for students who don’t feel safe doing the group one.”

Thompsons said the seniors had a choice and most of them chose the ceremony at Sullivan Field.

Later on Graduation Day, graduates will cruise around  town and have been encouraged to decorate their vehicles. Friends and supporters are expected to gather in small groups along the way.  

Thompson said the LAHS administration has been fabulous about the whole graduation celebration for the Class of 2021.

“They have never said no to anything we wanted to do. My senior class officers have come up with all these great ideas and they’re not saying, no, they’re saying let’s figure out how to do it safely. Anything we went to do, they ask how they can make it happen,” she said.

Nolen said LAHS Principal Carter Payne has been really great.

“He is really good at being supportive while also being strict. When we have needed someone to say we can’t do something  because of COVID, he’s been that person, taking the heat off us,” she said.

Thompson said prom, which was held May 1, was phenomenal.

“The creativity of going from station to station and having the dance online at home at people’s houses safely was great and there was a really good turnout,” she said. “In our community, you only have to ask and they give. Pig + Fig Café prepared the food and Laura Crucet gave us a great deal. Not only did she have great choices but she catered to everyone’s special needs, even with no notice. There were three different choices for appetizers and the main course which made it great.”

Nolen said thanks to all the great sponsors around the community, prom tickets were only $20 instead of the usual $50, so a lot more students could participate.

“It was amazing. We went to take photos at Ashley Pond and there were all groups like a normal prom but everyone had masks in their own group. Prom went really well so we are hoping that energy carries over so that seniors are excited to do appreciation type stuff in the next couple of weeks,” she said.

Seniors were delighted to have prom court and many of the usual prom activities. Thompson said there was even a photo booth operated by a professional photographer who provided all kinds of props. There were even custom-made masks from Renee Mitsunaga.

Seniors will be putting pins in a huge map doing the next couple of weeks to indicate where they will be next year. The map will be hanging at the LAHS career center all next year so other students can see where the Class of 2021 seniors are going.

“We will be encouraging other students to ask the seniors what it’s like to be joining the military or what made them want to go to a particular school or major in a certain field,” Thompson said.

Although COVID is a big factor in what can and can’t happen this year, Thompson thinks the seniors feel like they are really being celebrated.

“I think it was a very hard year. Being online and not seeing anyone was hard, but now we actually get to be together in school and we wanted to do anything we could to make them feel special,” she said.

She noted that students are surprised at all the items that have been contributed for them in addition to the T-shirts and yard signs.

“It definitely takes a village. I definitely couldn’t have done this by myself,” Thompson said.

 The Los Alamos Reporter has had the opportunity to speak to several parents who were submitting photos and little write-ups about their seniors for publication in the Reporter.

“My son and I are amazed at all that is being done to celebrate the seniors despite the COVID restrictions. Nobody even knew a few weeks ago that we would be able to do anything in person around graduation. Even though things are not the same as they have been for seniors in years past, they are still better than last year in our community and we are still here,” one mother wrote.

“My friends and I are making the most of things. We have decided to savor the memories and enjoy these last days of our high school careers as much as we can. A lot of people are working very hard to make it special for us,” a senior said. “Prom was great. Graduation will be great too.”