Class of 2020: Born amid terrorist attack, flooded freshman year, and coronavirus robs them of final senior moments

Class of 2020 born during terrorist attack, experiences flood of 2016, senior year cut short by COVID

DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (WAFB) - Livingston Parish has announced it will hold makeup graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020 in the coming weeks.

They’re the moments just about every high school senior looks forward to, the last few months, but the Class of 2020 was pretty much robbed, and the graduating class of Denham Springs High School may have had it even harder.

Grace Cambre and Gueslee Brownlee are seniors at Denham Springs High School. Cambre is the cheer captain, while Brownlee is the soccer team’s captain.

The duo will tell you as soon as the seniors of 2019 finished their last day of school, the Class of 2020 realized they had finally made it to the status they had been looking forward to for years.

“You feel like the big man on campus and you feel like this is your time, like you have waited all this time to be a senior and to do the fun senior things, you know, so it’s just really thrilling,” said Cambre.

But all those final moments, prom, walking the stage, tossing their caps, everything was taken away in a matter of minutes due to the coronavirus abruptly ending their school year nearly two months early.

“We didn’t get to say our goodbyes,” said Cambre. “It was like a punch to the gut when you realized that we did not know that was our last day.”

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“Whenever you are young, you are always wishing to be older. You’re always wishing to be an adult, so that one moment [graduation] is kind of like it switches pretty quickly,” said Brownlee.

The seniors of Denham Springs High School are no strangers to adversity.

“It was a very stressful time because as a freshman, you were trying to figure out like who you are and stuff,” said Brownlee.

“We were freshmen when the flood happened,” said Cambre.

Only a week into school on a brand new campus for their freshman year of high school, Denham Springs High flooded in August of 2016, shutting down the school for several months.

Plus, majority of those graduating in 2020 were born in a year no American will ever forget.

“I was born October 31, 2001, so 50 days after 9/11,” said Cambre.

“November 12, 2001,” said Brownlee. “About two months after 9/11. In a way, I definitely do feel a little cursed.”

Gueslee Brownlee was the captain of the soccer team at Denham Springs High School.
Gueslee Brownlee was the captain of the soccer team at Denham Springs High School. (Source: Gueslee Brownlee)

“We had the flood and then through the years we had some of our classmates who passed. We had three. One freshman, one sophomore, one junior year, and then this year obviously the coronavirus,” said Cambre.

A terrorist attack never seen before, a historic flood, and now a worldwide pandemic: they’re all moments the Class of 2020 now has etched in their minds forever, but it’s also why the graduating class at Denham Springs High has a bond that can never be broken.

“It’s hard to relate to other teenagers, like when you want to be a friend, but definitely the Class of 2020, we will always have this certain experience to relate to that we can definitely feel closer,” said Brownlee.

“Definitely the amount of loyalty that goes on at Denham Springs High School, it makes it home,” said Cambre.

In Cambre’s case, she’s a third generation Denham High Yellow Jacket, as they’re called.

“It’s just my mom went to school there,” said Cambre as she held back tears. “I’m sorry. It means a lot. My grandparents went to school there. When you were little, you went to the football games and you were like, ‘I cannot wait.’ It was like LSU to me.”

Since the pandemic, this graduating class planned a senior parade and even the rain couldn’t dampen their spirits or take away from the life lessons they have learned.

“I guess we really know how to push through,” said Cambre.

Grace Cambre was the captain of the cheer squad at Denham Springs High School.
Grace Cambre was the captain of the cheer squad at Denham Springs High School. (Source: Grace Cambre)

Nobody would’ve believed it had someone told these young students they’d lose out on their last two months of senior year.

“I would think that’s crazy. I would not believe it,” said Brownlee.

“I probably would have said you are crazy and then been sad and complained that I don’t want that to be my senior year, but now I am definitely, now that it has happened, I definitely have a more positive thought than I would have had in the beginning,” said Cambre.

Now, the cup is half full, not half empty. Despite never getting to say goodbye to their fellow classmates, teachers, and coaches, and the idea of a makeup graduation ceremony that was up in the air for so long, one thing that is clear is their future.

Cambre is headed to LSU to become a chiropractor and Brownlee will also be a purple and gold Tiger and eventually a dentist.

Even though theres no cap to move the tassel from right to left, the wisdom will let you know, the Denham Springs High seniors have definitely earned their graduation.

“Definitely take every moment, like enjoy every moment, because you obviously don’t know when it will be taken from you,” said Cambre.

Thursday, May 21, the Livingston Parish School System announced the school’s makeup graduation ceremony will be held June 26.

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