MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. – Senior year of high school means the chance to take part in longstanding traditions such as prom and graduation, but the pandemic has thrown a wrench in those plans as many schools shut down campuses and canceled events.

For Mira Costa High School student Isabella Salazar, navigating the uncertainty of her final year stands out in stark contrast to what has been a typical high school experience.


“The past three years for the most part have all been pretty similar...first semester, second semester, move on,” she said.

But the normalcy of the 18-year-old’s high school life has been upended by the pandemic, including a milestone she has been anticipating for a long time.

“I was looking forward to going to prom and getting to get all dressed up and go with my friends,” said Salazar. “Kind of quintessential high school experience.”

She even had an outfit in a mind - a suit

“I think I look nice in a suit. It’s gay chic, if you will, and I am a lesbian,” she said. “I wanted to go on like the dance floor and I’m not really one for dancing in dresses so I just thought it would be nice if I had pants.”

Those plans are now up in the air. She didn’t go to the junior prom last year because none of her friends were going and she wasn’t very close with senior students at the time. 

“So I was like, 'This is my only chance to go to prom,' and then this quarantine happens and everyone is like, 'Well, what is going to happen with that? How long is this going to last?'” she explained.

A Mira Costa High School official says at this point, it doesn’t look like prom will take place.

“Obviously, we can't have a big get-together with this whole pandemic going on,” said Salazar. “I just wish they would have been more frank with us about, like, this is what we're not going to be able to do.”

Missing the rite of passage isn’t the only frustrating aspect of her senior year. Like many students, Salazar was forced to adapt to online learning literally overnight.

I spend a lot of my time doing nothing, just kind of waiting for teachers to, like, send me something to do and it’s usually small and quick,” she said. “So I kind of almost feel like I'm on vacation but I'm in my house instead of going anywhere.”

It's a senior year that’s left Salazar with a lot of uncertainty and free time. 

“I have to find a way to fill my time so I have been playing video games and I have been drawing a lot since I am hoping to go to Santa Monica in the fall - Santa Monica City College - for animation and I also enrolled in classes recently,” she said.

As the end of the school year looms ahead, Salazar says plans for another milestone - graduation - are in the works at Mira Costa High School, but she’s already celebrating on her own.

“All of my family that would know that I'm graduating, I'm here with them,” she said. “We're all trapped in a house together and you know, they've all told me congrats on graduating. I've gotten a few letters in the mail from like cousins and extended family.”

But it’s the other once-in-a-lifetime celebration she’ll miss the most.

“Prom, though, was an experience with the friends who I can't really see much right now since we're all quarantined away from each other,” she said. “So that's probably what I'm more bummed about.”

Even though it’s not the party she hoped for, Salazar says she can’t wait to celebrate with her friends when it’s safe to do so.