PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. (WPVI) -- Emily Caffrey, Thomas Longo, and Dylan Gooneratne remember getting pulled out of class to sing a song for an Action News commercial ten years ago.
They were third-graders then. Today, they are seniors at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School. But the pomp and circumstance that accompanies a graduating class has been largely muted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I miss, like, the little things, the interaction with, like, my friends and my teachers," said Emily Caffrey. "Some of them, I haven't seen in, like, a year or two because of COVID."
When Action News' Marketing Department revisited the decade-old commercial in 2021, they recruited a handful of these impromptu child actors to reprise their roles. For Caffrey, it was a way to connect the dots with students she hasn't seen throughout the pandemic.
"I usually see them in the hallways, but I haven't, and I'm like, oh, that's what they look like, right," she said.
Caffrey's classmate, Thomas Longo, awaits the day he can see more of his friends in person.
"It isn't about how they look. I don't care if I have to wear a mask. I don't care if we have to be six feet apart," said Longo. "It's about the people I spent the last 12-13 years of my life with every single year and just having those last opportunities to just talk to them and be friends with them like we all are is just going to be the best part about it."
Thankfully for Longo, sports like ice hockey have carried on despite the pandemic. He says it's a much-needed source of drive that keeps him hungry and working hard.
Still, students like Longo and Caffrey are holed up in their houses taking virtual classes. Many are enrolled in a hybrid model, which invites them to come to school in-person two days per week. That's what life was like for 12th-grade student Dylan Gooneratne until today, when students were granted the option to attend school in-person four days per week.
"It's kind of a sign that we're finally moving somewhat back to normal with our lives and getting back to what we hope we can get back to once the pandemic ends," he said.
Throughout the virtual schooling process, Gooneratne says he learned how valuable it is to learn inside a real classroom with an in-person teacher.
"I think an underrated part of learning and education, and I think we took it for granted when we were in school having those conversations with teachers," he said.
Gooneratne hopes to study business in college. His colleagues, Caffrey and Longo, are leaning towards nursing and history majors respectively.
As students, they lie at the crux of the conversation surrounding schooling during the pandemic. But each of their parents are affected in profound ways as well.
"Being a Plymouth Whitemarsh graduate myself, some of the traditions that he's missing have been going on for years and years and years," said Adonna Longo, Thomas' mother.
Adonna says she and other parent groups have been working relentlessly to create memorable moments for students. She and others are hosting a donut drive-by for the students at Victory Fields this Sunday.
Staff and administrators are also hard at work ensuring that coming-of-age traditions such as senior prom and the Disney World class trip can proceed, even if they look slightly different or require back-up plans.
To learn more about students' and parents' reactions to coping with the pandemic, view our video at the top of this article.