Harford Technical High School graduate Sandrea Nyivih hopes that she and her classmates will remember the significant history-making events that happened as they completed high school, including the novel coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide protests against police brutality and racism — not the senior year activities they missed out on because the pandemic forced schools to close.
Nyivih, 18, of Edgewood, had a stake in those activities as a member of her Bel Air-based magnet school’s senior council, helping to plan the prom and senior trip. She also threw discus and shotput for the Cobras on the track and field team.
Missing those springtime activities was “really disappointing," Nyivih said in an interview prior to her June 11 commencement. She doesn’t want to focus on the disappointing aspects of senior year when looking back on that time, though. Rather, she wants to focus on the pandemic and protests and their impact on her and her classmates.
“Those are are going to be the things that we want to focus on when we’re looking back on this point in our lives,” Nyivih said. “Those are the things we want to remember instead of the things we missed out on.”
Harford County students, like their counterparts throughout Maryland, have had to take their classes online at home since mid-March when schools were closed because of the pandemic. That means Nyivih got to spend much more time with her family and develop another key memory for her senior year.
“We’ve also had to focus on things like family and friends that we will cherish forever,” she said. “We’ve been able to remember what is most important to us.”
“Even though we’ve missed out on some things, we’ve gained a lot,” she added.
Nyivih’s father, Stephen, noted that all members of the family were “able to bond a little better” while staying at home, adding that “it’s been a learning experience for everybody.”
The experience of the pandemic this spring has taught his daughter to “be prepared for changes,” Stephen Nyivih said.
“This life has a lot of changes,” he said. “As she goes into college, she should be prepared for all these eventualities as they come up.”
Nyivih plans to attend University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the fall, where she will study computer science. She was in the cyber security program at Harford Tech, and she hopes to work after college in the cyber defense field, either for the government or private sector.
Math and science were Nyivih’s favorite subjects before high school. Her parents encouraged her to pursue cyber security at Harford Tech, telling her that it is “an up-and-coming field,” she said.
“I became the most passionate for a job in computers by going to Harford Tech,” Nyivih said.
She has pursued additional activities during her time at Harford Tech, such as a weekend job at a local CVS store, as well as singing in the school chorus.
“Sandrea had a great time in high school,” Stephen Nyivih said. “She did a lot of good things; I’m really proud of her, really.”
Choir teacher Alissa Thomas worked with Nyivih for two years and noted how the graduate progressed “to really being a leader,” both in choir class and with her peers.
“People really respect her,” Thomas said. “They respect what she has to say, even if they may not agree with her.”
Thomas works with ninth through 12th graders, and she praised Nyivih for “nurturing” the younger students in choir.
“She’s very helpful to me, helping me bring along the younger students,” Thomas said. “She’s become extremely nurturing.”
Thomas also described Nyivih as “very kind hearted,” “extremely smart” and said she “brings a sense of positive energy and kindness, wherever she is.”
Thomas was still able to teach choir, even with her students at home. The class could not sing as a group, but students had several types of assignments, including making videos of themselves singing, practicing conducting a choir by showing a video of a choir singing and then recording themselves conducting the singers on screen, or they could plan a concert.
“It’s been challenging,” she said of teaching remotely. “We’ve made it work the best way that we could.”
Thomas described the members of Harford Tech’s Class of 2020 as “poised to be culture changers wherever they go.” She sees in them “a lot of positivity, a lot of people who want to make a difference, and you see that, more often than not, in this class at Tech.”