The Class of 2020: Where Are They Now? (cont. from Roar Magazine)


A group of Potomac Falls’ Alumni from the senior class of 2020 return to their roots as they discuss their experience graduating from high school during the pandemic and reflect on their years at Potomac Falls.

Two years ago, the Potomac Falls’ class of 2020 graduated high school amidst a global pandemic. Schools were closed, masks were on, and we had just entered a months-long quarantine, the first of many historic changes we would endure within the next two years. The class of 2020’s senior year was anything but typical. They were faced not only with fear and anxiety for the health of themselves and their loved ones, but with leaving high school and beginning university during uncertain and unprecedented times. “Graduating and entering college during a global pandemic was definitely hard for me, as it was for lots of people. I didn’t really feel true closure from high school until well into my second semester here at CNU,” said Communication Studies major and former Roar staff writer Anna Shapiro, “Entering an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people is already difficult, but the real challenge came from online classes. I felt really isolated from campus.”

Jordan Gleich, now a student at Gallaudet University, described her graduation ceremony which was held in June of 2020. “We had to be called up one at a time and had masks on. Our parents had to stay away and take pictures from afar, but we were allowed to take pictures together before going into the auditorium,” said Gleich. Gleich added that the pandemic has influenced her college experience as well. “The school I go to now went fully online for my first year, so I couldn’t fully get the freshman experience I was looking forward to, which was sad.”

JMU student and Social Work major Sorayah Melendez said she learned a meaningful lesson from her graduation experience. “I truly appreciated all of the acknowledgement that the world gave to the class of 2020; my grandmother didn’t go to school past second grade, so graduation is a big deal in my family,” said Melendez. “Although we were all expecting a graduation with hundreds of people, the pandemic made that impossible, and I had to be flexible. I changed the expectation I had of how I was going to be celebrated (a graduation ceremony) to accepting this new form of celebration and recognition. I think this time in my life taught me how to be flexible, and to accept what I was being offered with gratitude and humility.”

JMU Media Arts and Design major Abby Detorie said, “It definitely made me appreciate the little things more, especially when high school was cut short so suddenly. I never thought I’d miss high school sports, yearbook, and all my friends so much. I’ve learned to accept change more easily and make opportunities happen instead of waiting for them to come to me.”

In 2020, the graduating class symbolized the immense change and loss we collectively endured in the first phase of the pandemic. The media talked avidly about how the Coronavirus impacted seniors at the time, but how has their experience continued to shape their lives? “The pandemic taught me a lot about adaptation. While it affected my mental health, it also taught me to let go of what I can’t change,” said Shapiro. “I also learned a lot about what is important and what to let go of. Life is too short to be hung up on things that really don’t matter and to be holding on to people that don’t care about you, so holding on is a waste of time and energy that could be spent on other things that can make you so much happier.”

The class of 2020 has also undergone personal growth despite the challenges they have faced; their personal lives have transformed in many ways since their senior year.  “I have grown a lot as a person since graduating. In high school, I participated in things to fulfill requirements or to put on my resume, not because I truly enjoyed whatever I was participating in,” said Melendez, “Now, I don’t measure my worth or identity by how many leadership positions I have…I do things because I enjoy them. I am currently involved in a campus ministry as well as being a tour guide for JMU, two things I wholeheartedly enjoy.”

Becca Lipshultz, who acted in numerous Potomac Falls productions including Pride and Prejudice, The Wizard of Oz, Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Mamma Mia said, “I’ve been really focused on my music/songwriting and I’ve released 9 songs and written over 60 songs, including a musical theater concept…” Lipshultz added that she has collaborated on her art with other Potomac Falls’ alumni. “All of the music I’ve released was written by me, recorded by Daniel McCurdy (Class of 2020) and produced by my brother, Zack Lipshultz (Class of 2019),” said Lipshultz.

Joseph Navin, the former News and Opinion Editor and Chief for The Roar, described his greatest achievement since graduating. “Since my senior year, I have continued to follow the pathway towards journalism and now photojournalism as well. I am a news writer for and am now the Photo Editor for my university news organization,” said Navin. “Currently, my biggest accomplishment is both my roles at NASASpaceflight, and the Elon News Network.”

Jalen Coker, formerly on the Potomac Falls football team, currently plays for the College of the Holy Cross and aspires to play the game professionally in the National Football League. “My dream is still to go to the NFL. That will never change,” said Coker. Coker said the road to a career in football is anything but easy, and has been an enduring journey. “It is not easy to make it to the NFL. It takes a lot of perseverance and hard work, but more often than not a good attitude,” said Coker. “So much of the game is mental and at the highschool level you think it’s just about stats. I thank God for my ability to play this sport as long as I have and I hope that I can continue to live my dream for as many more years as possible.”

Gleich, however, who is studying to be a sign language interpreter for the deaf, has focused her efforts toward achieving greater mental health since entering university. “Since senior year a lot has changed, my mental health became better, I worked on body positivity, and self love. A lot of people are scared to talk about mental health but I feel like I can be a positive representative for it.”

While the class of 2020 have accomplished remarkable success since leaving high school, there is no doubt that they hold fond memories of their time spent at Potomac Falls. “I am grateful for every single teacher and faculty member who I interacted with. I would not be the person I am today without their influence,” said Melendez. “I also dearly miss the diversity of both the faculty and student bodies, as I realize now that the diversity of Potomac Falls was something I took for granted. I loved being surrounded by so many different people, backgrounds, and cultures.”

Detorie, who was once a staff member for The Roar and Potomac Falls’ Yearbook, said, “I’ll always miss 239, Ms. Everett, Yearbook, and The Roar. I credit literally all of my accomplishments to what I learned from Everett, and will be forever thankful to 239.”

Janette Nowak took a different route than many of her peers following high school. Rather than attend university, she is working in Cybersecurity and serving in the U.S. Air Force. “I miss seeing all my super close friends everyday, making jokes with each other as we pass through the halls, and making teachers laugh,” said Nowak.

Shapiro said that she misses the camaraderie of high school. “I would go to school and see friends in the parking lot, and some days sprint from the back of the parking lot to make it inside before the 9:15 bell,” said Shapiro. “I got along with many of my teachers, and I knew that I could go to any of them for help with a lot of things, not just school work.” Shapiro went on to describe one of her dearest memories of Potomac Falls. “Some of my favorite moments happened in Mr. Walker’s fifth block Philosophy class during the second semester of my senior year. My table group used to bring in breakfast for each other,” said Shapiro.

Melendez said the “random memories” she has of Potomac Falls are what make her smile the most. “We had a mariachi band come play in the cafeteria during all of the lunch blocks,” said Melendez.

“May 5, 2020,” Coker stated ambiguously. “That day will forever be a dream. If you know, you know.”

What can the current students of Potomac Falls learn from these Alumni? Gleich described what she wished she had known in high school. “Just keep pushing, it gets better,” said Gleich.

“I would tell my High School self to keep working hard and to not be too rough on myself, and that in the end things would all work out fine,” said Navin

While Shapiro emphasized the significance of developing good habits and study-skills, she offered encouragement to the current students of Potomac Falls. “Don’t let the bad experiences outweigh the good ones…Be careful but have fun. You only have four years, so make the most of them,” said Shapiro. “They will fly by if you’re not careful. Not everything is life or death, so take advantage of that grey area.”

Detorie expressed a similar sentiment. “Have fun and don’t take school too seriously. Everything will work out and you’ll always end up where you need to be,” said Detorie.

Melendez believes the most important lesson a teenager can learn is to make connections with those around them and treat others with respect and kindness. “One of my biggest regrets is knowing everyone’s name, but knowing nothing about their families, their interests, or who they were as people. I wish I could have taken one single lunch block to sit with someone new,” said Melendez. “Also, get to know the staff at Potomac Falls. I can’t count how many times I walked past a teacher, custodian, secretary, or cafeteria server and didn’t acknowledge them. These are the people who work behind the scenes to make PF functional, and they each have a unique story. You might find that you have something in common with one of them. I missed out on the opportunity to make new friends and connect with more of the staff at Potomac Falls, but I hope you will take time to learn more about the people around you.”

“Everything happens for a reason, take whatever life throws at you and go with it. In order to find the good in the situations you have to let loose and be open minded,” said Nowak.

“Advice that I would give to every highschool student is to take school seriously and don’t let other people control how you live your life. You will see that when you graduate high school a lot of people you knew, you won’t anymore,” said Coker. “It’s sad, but if you can look at it positively and continue to try and better yourself. You can’t make anyone stay around no matter who you are. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated and you will feel better about yourself and have others around you feeling the same way. Also, effort is needed for all things meaningful so don’t be afraid to put yourselves out there.”

The class of 2020 left an impact on Potomac Falls, and we learn from them as they continue to surprise and impress, growing and succeeding in the face of trouble during unprecedented times.