Our last last quarter: A love letter to senior year


Sara Sierk

The 12 Pleasant Valley seniors selected for the Iowa All-State Choir, Band and Orchestra gather for a photo before their final concert.

Caroline Sierk, Copy Editor

For years, the end of fourth quarter has simply meant the start of a long, sunny summer of freedom that ultimately ends with a return to school in the fall. For the first time, however, seniors across the country are standing on the edge of their last quarter with no return in sight.

This final last quarter is simultaneously the end of an era and the exposition of the next adventure. The shared experience is somewhat comforting, but every senior responds to this inevitably emotional time in their own way. 

First come the kids with fatal senioritis: a nation-sweeping, paralyzing virus that cuts off motivation flow from the brain and incapacitates seniors from doing anything remotely productive. 

Although it is incredibly contagious, cases vary in severity. Many of these students have formed an unhealthy dependency on caffeinated energy drinks and likely have not opened their lockers in months. The rare elementary school joy of pajama day has glowed up into daily high school ecstacy. The freedom of open-campus early out Fridays is the cherry on top of every week – and signals one step closer to graduate liberty.

For other students, it is not as easy to loosen up. High school has always been a marathon, and fourth quarter is the final lap. Transcripts packed with 10 AP classes, 12-hour school days and a drought of flexibility say it all. At this point, these seniors have also likely developed a symbiotic relationship with caffeine but may not prioritize other human needs like eating full meals or sleeping through the night.

Put simply, this breed of senior does not know how to breathe.

For many students on this path, school was once a safe environment, became their sole validating purpose and has since turned into an accelerating hamster wheel to drive themselves insane. For that reason, many do not know what to do with themselves once they have committed to universities and their grades become arbitrary. 

Those perfectly labeled and color-coded school supplies bought in the peak of back to school season are collecting dust under beds. Buying new notebooks used to be exhilarating, but now the understanding of how many trees died for approximately five new 70-page notebooks annually for 13 years – as well as a deep hyper-awareness of carbon sequestration and deforestation from various biology and chemistry courses – infests scholastic guilt in the minds of students everywhere, and they feel sick just thinking about studying another minute.

On the other hand, many of these seniors still will not let up the fight until they are safe on the other side of the graduation stage. 

They may know where they are attending college or what trade they will pursue, but they do not know how to turn off their intrinsic motivation for academic validation; it really can be quite admirable. However, it can also be immobilizing to watch their peers relax for their last quarter while they continue to sweat it out to the extreme. 

Senior Salar Cheema has made his name known to the class of 2022. His personal drive to find the fun – or in his words, “jape”  – during such an immensely stressful time has taken the senior class by storm. “I started japing originally to create enjoyment for myself and for everyone around me, so I think it spread so quickly because it steered other students’ minds away from all of their worries,” he said.

Cheema continued, “I think most high schoolers can agree that they dread coming to school everyday, so when I started to give the school a less serious atmosphere by constantly messing around, many students found a reason to keep coming back.” This open-minded, serendipitous attitude is what sets Cheema apart as an energy creator. Making people laugh and forget their troubles is what he strives for. He swears to make fourth quarter the best quarter yet.

“I used to be very shy and quiet, but this year I decided to change my life around by stepping outside of my comfort zone and getting my name out there,” Cheema confided. “I stopped caring about what others thought of me and started trying things that no one else has the courage to do – such as riding around school in wheeled shoes or doing a promposal in front of the whole cafeteria during lunch.”

Cheema hopes his legacy reminds others to push themselves through the historically competitive environment at school. Cheema promises an unforgettable senior prank to wrap the year up.

Regardless of what boat they are in, every senior could benefit from looking around at everyone else’s unanimous mental state; the class of 2022 is happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. Regardless of what approach any student takes to their final fourth quarter, every student inevitably has to say goodbye – to teachers, friends, passions and Belmont Rd. 

Varsity football players said their farewells in autumn as they hung up their jerseys in November after an epic ultimate Playoff Semifinal. The 12 PV Iowa All-State musicians donned blue and gray and golden medals for the last time at their November concert. Seniors in theatre have only a few more chances on the Spartan stage before taking their final bows in May. 

However, the year is not over yet. There is still a whole spring of memories to be made at athletic championships, senior award nights, prom and graduation. Senior Erika Holmberg especially anticipates the finale band and choir concerts of the year. “The fact that a lot of people are realizing it’s their last concert together brings out the best in people’s emotions,” she said. As the overwhelming sensation of “lasts” sets in, so does the slow goodbye.

After that, the likeliness of the class of 2022 being all together again is incredibly rare. But, this shared conclusion is also a new beginning. We can finish off strong. Hang in there, Spartans.