Class of 2020: An Experience to Remember

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graduation ceremony 2020

Health care is at the top of our minds right now, like never before. The health of ourselves, our friends, neighbors and families. I recall a conversation with a co-worker back in early March about the looming COVID-19 virus, when things started to feel a little “weird.” The what-ifs we talked about then have now become our reality.

Most everyone in our community has had a substantial disruption to their lives due to COVID-19; from teachers learning how to teach our children online and students learning a whole new world of virtual education, to essential employees on the front lines and everyone in between. Every day there are new releases from the media on the global and regional effects of COVID-19. We are living in a completely unprecedented time in our history, one that only a few months ago would not have seemed possible.

A Historic Beginning

From day one, the class of 2020 has made history. Back in March when our state began to shut down, the Forum published an article discussing how current high school seniors were the first generation born after 9/11 and now faced a global pandemic during their final year of high school. Unlike most high school seniors, the class of 2020 won’t attend prom, senior skip day or even a traditional graduation ceremony. Instead of getting ready to wear a cap and gown, they are left wondering how their graduation ceremony will even happen.

They faced their last day of school without knowing it was their last; without saying goodbye to their classmates and their friends. Every student adapted to distance learning differently and is affected by the pandemic in a different ways, but one thing they all have in common is that their senior year and graduation has been taken away from them.

This is the reality for my son, Jacob, and his classmates at Moorhead High School. While the transition into distance learning has been easier than he thought, there are still daily challenges when it comes to the technology, both for the students and the teachers. Still, the communication between teachers and students has been great, and according to Jacob, “it feels like we are a team and we are all in this together; we will figure this out together.”

Bravo, to our teachers for making our kids feel they are a part of something. This will no doubt be a feeling and memory they carry with them for life.

When I think back to high school, I remember having several discussions with teachers and counselors about secondary education planning. These last few months can be critical for college preparation, and our seniors are missing out on some integral discussions with guidance counselor and teachers. It’s harder to hold these important conversations over text and e-mail, and often phone calls can be a challenge for both teachers and students. 

While most seniors had decided on a college choice by the time the pandemic began, many seniors are finding themselves second-guessing the financial and emotional impact of their choices. Should they attend a school closer to home? Find one with lower tuition? Much like their parents, they’re concerned about the financial outcomes of all of this. They are worried about how they will afford college, now more than ever before.

Forever Changed

When it comes to missing a graduation ceremony, there are mixed emotions. Not only are our seniors sad to miss their own graduation ceremony, they also feel heartbroken that family and friends will not get to see that historic moment when they walk in their cap and gown. Kudos to our school systems for figuring out a way to host a virtual graduation, but it still won’t replace the missed milestone and all the feelings that accompany that one special graduation day. 

The pandemic will have a lasting effect on these kids’ lives, like many other monumental times in our history. Their final year of high school will undoubtedly be changed by this, and in the words of Jacob, “for the rest of my life I will be thinking about everything differently than before.” I think we all can relate, as we are all anxious to get back to our “normal.”

Being a part of the Class of 2020 is a story our kids will be able to tell their children someday. They can share losses, their grief, and their pride in overcoming a challenge that was unprecedented for our time. 

Congratulations Class of 2020. You’ve earned it! 

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