To say that the 2020/2021 school year was tough on students and families…would be a gross understatement. For many kids and parents, it was stressful, painful and characterized by challenges and uncertainties that no one could have anticipated.
And yet, the Class of 2021 emerged victorious, with diplomas in hand and sights set on the future. Their journey was difficult, but they persevered through shutdowns, quarantines and drastic changes to class schedules and formats.
While seniors missed out again on some traditional high school activities, most did get to experience full commencement ceremonies with their friends and family this year. Thanks to the lifting of outdoor COVID-19 restrictions, several districts in our county were able to hold commencements outside at their school football stadiums.
Earlier this month, I was fortunate to cover two such outdoor commencement ceremonies for Flushing High School and Carman Ainsworth High School. Both graduations had an “old-school” feel to them, with students entering the fields in a grand procession, parents and family members cheering from the stands and school administrators calling out the names of students over the stadium loudspeakers.
No disrespect to the great venues in the area that usually host high school commencements, but it was cool to see students and their families celebrating graduation outdoors on school grounds. The atmospheres were immersed with school spirit, and the excitement displayed by parents was incredible.
Many graduating seniors took in the experience with joy, relief and a little nervousness etched on their faces—which is what you would expect to see at any usual Graduation Day. But this wasn’t a typical year for the Class of 2021. As such, it seemed that students were more appreciative of the moment than they might have been under normal conditions. Some displayed that gratitude with exuberance as they crossed the stage to receive their diplomas; others were more solemn and introspective, perhaps, as they saw flashbacks to the challenges they faced throughout the pandemic and took comfort in overcoming them.
We absolutely must raise our glasses to the Class of 2021 for overcoming trials and tribulations on the road to graduation. For one thing, they had to adapt to virtual and hybrid learning formats, while also fighting off feelings of isolation during the late fall shutdown and learning-from-home periods. When students were in class, they had to wear masks for eight hours or more a day and follow numerous protocols. And many missed out on traditions like proms and pep rallies.
Despite the circumstances, I have a feeling that this class of graduates will emerge with some added resiliency, grit and adaptability. I think that will serve them well as they enter the collegiate world and the workforce and even down the road when they begin families of their own one day.
Here’s to the Class of 2021: You came, you saw, and you conquered.
Ben Gagnon is a reporter with View Newspaper Group. You can contact him at email@example.com.