The COVID-19 Class of 2020: High school grads try to plan for the future

High schoolers have had to forgo proms, graduations and other important events because of COVID-19. Some have lost family to the virus, yet there is still hope for what the future will bring.
8:20 | 05/19/20

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:

{{nextVideo.title}}

{{nextVideo.description}}

Skip to this video now

Now Playing:

{{currentVideo.title}}

Comments
Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for The COVID-19 Class of 2020: High school grads try to plan for the future
When I envisioned going to college, I knew that it would create a better life for me. Reporter: Growing up in foster care in Los Angeles, dreaming about the future sometimes seemed like an indulgence for 17-year-old Jenny Soto. But she found a passion and a sense of belonging playing lacrosse. The coach's high GPA requirement kept her focused on her goal of going to UCLA. Yeah! Reporter: This spring the senior at Downey high school found out she had been accepted. I'm the first generation. Just by me going to college it just flips my life around for not just me but everybody after me. Reporter: The sense of achievement she and so many in the class of 2020 feel dampened by the loss of so many important moments this year. Canceled proms, graduation ceremonies moved online, good-bye hugs postponed indefinitely. Those rites of passage impossible in the midst of a pandemic. I didn't ever go to a school dance because I thought like my senior year prom is going to be the only dance I'm going to go to. And it didn't happen. Reporter: Instead Jenny says she danced with her brother at home, making the best of the situation. Something that may be a hallmark for her generation. This weekend Oprah Winfrey calling on all seniors in her online commencement speech to lead through their sound resilience. There is so much uncertainty. In truth there always has been. What I do know is that the same guts and imagination that got you to this moment, all those things are the very things that are going to sustain you through whatever is coming. It turns out that prom has been canceled. That one hurt us a lot. In comparison to everything else going on in the world it's definitely something that we can sacrifice. One, two, three. Reporter: Senior prom would have been the Cher join top to 18-year-old Kenny Clapp's extraordinarily successful career at Baltimore's archbishop Curley high school. One, two, three! Reporter: He's captain of the varsity soccer team, sga president, a member of the youth ministry and has a 3.9 GPA. He's become an ambassador of sorts for the all-boys' school in Baltimore featured in the welcome video to incoming freshmen. For the past four years archbishop Curley has really become my home. Reporter: The high school a life-changing experience for so many young men. Congratulations. Reporter: Myself included. Class of 2020. Meet the class of 1978. Kenny committing to play division 1 soccer at Syracuse his mom, Mia, beyond proud. He's like the best parts of us. To see him being able to make an impact in his community, it tells me that he is here for something bigger and I'm just grateful to have been a vessel. Reporter: Baptized at his high school during his senior retreat week, another event canceled due to the pandemic. His entire school community was going to be there to support him. That was a bigger disappointment for me than prom. You're going to make me start crying now. Come on. It was huge. It was such -- you know, it was just going to be such a big deal. And he was so proud. Reporter: What has covid-19 taught you? To be grateful. To cherish every single moment you have because in a split second it can be taken from you. Reporter: That feeling of is sudden loss something Jenny Soto had to get used to from a young age. Bouncing from home to home. Pastor Alex Bernard was always part of her life. But she says it was the six years she lived with him as his daughter that had the biggest impact. UCLA would not be a thing if I hadn't lived her. Reporter: But nothing could her for the unexpected cruelty. She found out she was accepted to UCLA when her beloved foster father was at the hospital being evaluated for covid-19. She shared the news with him when he got home. And he hugged me. He wasn't supposed to hug me. We thought he was sick. We didn't know for sure. Why not, I'm just going to hug he was just like I'm so proud of you, MI Hija. Reporter: Just eight days later her foster dad passed away. It was all happening fast. You always think things happen around us. It's never us. And this time it was us. Reporter: She plans to study sociology so she can be a social worker who helps young people, carrying on her dad's legacy, who was a foster father to four children. I just know liej going to finish for him. I'm going to do this. He always thought I'm someone so smart. Like I'm really not. But he always thought I have the smartest daughter. So that's for him. Reporter: A. Tom Burnett also knows the toll covid-19 takes. He lost his grandfather at the end of March. He battled it in the hospital for about a week. The only word I could use to describe it was torturous going through that for us and obviously him as well. And just the whole grieving process has been zrilt because of all the lockdowns and not being able to be near the people we love. Oil into the pan. Reporter: 18-year-old is known for his viral cooking videos on platforms like tik offline he too is a high schooler grappling with this current moment. I did reach out to a grief counselor so I could have someone who's more professional and knows how to deal with it and there was no shame in asking for help. So that's what I'm doing. Reporter: He's decided to take a gap year and focus on creating content. I'm trying stay positive and also know that my school is trying to do the best they can. We are definitely getting an uptick in people asking questions about what does it mean to defer, can I do that, and a lot of students just considering it because they feel like the school's not going to go back in session in person, they don't want to have an online experience to start their college career. Reporter: Kim Penney is an educational consultant who specializes in helping high school students and their families navigate the admission process. A lot of colleges their deadline is may 1st. High school students make the final decision to let them know they're coming. A lot of schools pushed it back to June 1st. With that we still have a lot of kids grappling with whether or not they're going to go back or go at all. Reporter: The university of Arizona announcing their plan to reopen this fall. Will hinge on their own testing program here in their research lab they develop and will process covid-19 diagnostic and antibody tests, promising everyone on campus a test if they want it. The school has even started to convert this dorm into an isolation center. If students become sick with the virus, they'll get a room to themselves. Food delivered and treatment by telemedicine. My colleague Tom young has spoken to the school's president who is also a cardiothoracic surgeon. What would it take for the university to close again? Of all the questions that's the question that keeps me up at night. It doesn't keep me up at night. It wakes me up frequently at night. When is this experiment gone so wrong that we have to stop it? And I would say I don't have an answer for that right now. Reporter: Dr. Anthony Fauci has expressed caution about schools reopening. The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the re-entry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far. Reporter: California state university, the largest public college system in the U.S., with nearly 500,000 students, has already announced classes will be held online this fall. The university of South Carolina announcing yesterday they'll hold in-person classes starting in August, skip fall break, and move to online classes at Thanksgiving. For the class of 2020 dreams may be deferred but not abandoned. I thought I was going to live on campus, live over there, but now my first year is going to be over here. I don't think there's any chance we're going to go. We'll be online. For me it's not a what if. It's just a when. I'm just repeating that over and over in my head. I know that until that time I'm still happy and training each and every day, just thinking and knowing that we'll get back to normal. Our thanks to Byron.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"8:20","description":"High schoolers have had to forgo proms, graduations and other important events because of COVID-19. Some have lost family to the virus, yet there is still hope for what the future will bring.","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/Nightline","id":"70758541","title":"The COVID-19 Class of 2020: High school grads try to plan for the future","url":"/Nightline/video/covid-19-class-2020-high-school-grads-plan-70758541"}