“Prom and senior night — those were big events we missed out on but I’m a really hopeful person and always looking forward to the next thing so I’m moving forward regardless of the situation,” he said.
Taylor said the first few weeks were probably the hardest for his classmates, but now that remote learning has become the norm and it’s clear recovering from the impacts of the pandemic is going to take some time, he said they’ve adjusted to a “new normal.”
“A lot of seniors felt bad for themselves in the beginning but now we’re moving on and ready to tackle whatever is next,” he said. “My class has always been resilient — it feels like we’ve been through everything together. It’s just like when we got our senior parking lot taken away during construction — instead of complaining, we just move forward when met with an adversary.”
Indeed, the Swain County High senior class is a tight-knit bunch. Many of them have gone to school together since kindergarten. Taylor said a graduation ceremony is a time to celebrate a major milestone with his classmates before they all head into different directions, but with the restrictions on mass gatherings a traditional ceremony is likely out of the question.
“The reason I’d like a regular graduation is to see my friends and their families celebrate this great milestone in their lives. I’m likely going to have two more chances at a graduation but that’s not a reality for all my classmates,” he said. “This is much more special for us because at bigger high schools you have a lot of people transferring in and out but for most part all of the kids here have been together a long time.”
As of May 25, Swain County Schools hadn’t decided on any kind of alternative plans for a graduation ceremony, but Taylor is certain that whatever kind of celebration is planned, it will be the best solution administration and teachers are able to come up with under the circumstances. He said he’s been so appreciative of all the additional support provided to students during the remote learning process.
Seniors have still had lessons, assignments and homework even though the N.C. Department of Education announced in April that students’ grades wouldn’t be impacted by COVID-19. Basically, students grades as on March 17 will carry forward to graduation, but Talyor said that hasn’t stopped him finishing each requirement.
“I’ve kept on top of it. I’m just one of those people, I have to see it through. I started it and i’m going to finish it. I guess I could have taken the easy route out but I wanted to say I finished it and finished strong,” he said. “Our teachers have been wonderful in helping us. My two AP teachers have gone above and beyond to make sure we were ready for the tests and ready for college.”
Aside from completing his final tests, Taylor is also a member of the Junaluska Leadership Club, a liaison youth council that develops resolutions to present to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council for consideration. Taylor and many of his family members are enrolled members of EBCI, which is why this legislation is so important to him.
“Right now we’re working on legislation for the Cherokee EBCI that would help clean up the environment while also bringing new jobs to the area,” Taylor said.
Taylor is taking his enthusiasm for drafting policies to the honors college at UNC-Chapel Hill this fall to major in political science. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he has plans to attend law school.
“I’m really leaning toward practicing civil rights law, specifically for Native Americans,” he said.
Starting college not knowing what the fall semester will look like is a little scary, but Taylor is hopeful Chapel Hill will be ready to start back in some capacity. Luckily, his roommate will be a fellow Swain County grad from Bryson City, allowing him to take a piece of home along with him.