BILLINGS — While washing cars at an annual graduation party fund raiser in Billings Saturday, senior students from two Billings high schools said finishing high school during the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult and different, but yielded its own unique lessons.
“As a school and a community, we’ve all really worked hard to try and make it the best it could be, especially these parents," said Savanna Cronk, a senior at Senior High School with plans to attend Montana State University in the fall.
Graduating seniors and their parents washed cars at five Masterlube locations to raise money for an all-night, sober graduation party for the class of 2021 from Billings Senior High School, Billings West High School, Billings Skyview High School, Billings Central Catholic High School and Laurel High School.
During grad day at the Masterlube locations, the owners of the auto lube shop donate 100 percent of every oil change, wiper blade sold in the day. Car washes also pop up near the lube shops, staffed by the soon-to-be graduates. The tradition has gone on for 30 years, according to the Masterlube web site.
It was a nice, sunny day to wash some cars. The Billings students were excited to only have 15 days left before the May 30 graduation ceremony at MetraPark First Interstate Arena.
“I feel like after this year, I can do anything," said Lynden Barman, a Skyview senior with plans to attend Montana State University Bozeman to study electrical engineering.
At the beginning of the school year, parents had to choose whether their student would attend only in person or only remote classes. Students and staff were required to wear masks through the school year and Billings School District 2 lost about 479 students to home schooling last year.
Quinn Mayhall, a senior at Skyview High School, said missing out on staple high school activities like attending sports games and school dances was disappointing, but at least he got to be in the classroom.
“It was pretty tough It was a lot different. A lot of the dances got canceled. A lot of things were just kind of canceled and taken away. The only good thing was that you got to go back ( to school). We weren’t forced to stay remote," Mayhall said.
Mayhall plans to attend Montana State University Billings City College to peruse a degree in welding.
The students talked about the important role that their parents and teachers played in their education and how they tried to make the year a bit more fun.
“They really tried their best to get us in with the sports teams and stuff. They were really working for us to have a better year. It just sucks that it didn’t end up the way we we all wanted it to. It’s definitely a learning experience," said Joey Hurt, a Skyview senior with plans to attend University of Montana in Missoula and study primary education.
Lacee Torno, a Skyview Senior with plans to study electrical engineering at MSU added, “As much as we’ve lost, we’ve gained a lot with all of our parents helping out. They’ve made so much possible for us. It's really amazing."
Tono was also the artist of the 2021 Skyview mural on the Heights Masterlube. You can also see the 2021 mural by Hannah Swartzkopf on the opposite side of the shop.
The War of the Walls winner was announced on Saturday. Senior High School and artist Aethena Renova took the prize, which is voted on by the community in an online poll. To view all the murals and learn more about their artists, visit Masterlube's website by clicking here.
Cronk said her experience during the pandemic made her see the world a bit differently.
“I think a lot of people started to realize how important some things are. It was nice to be able to hang out with family more and just really appreciate those essential workers, too," Cronk said.