By Pauline Kerr
This is the time of year when the only thought in the minds of many young people is graduation – choosing the perfect prom dress, tossing caps into the air, negotiating with parents about how late the after-prom party can go, and standing proudly on the stage with their friends one last time.
It is a rite of passage, a marking of the culmination of years of studying before taking a giant step into the future.
This year is, of course, different. The Class of 2020 has had to take that huge step, without ceremony or fanfare.
Some tech-savvy young people are holding their own virtual graduation ceremonies complete with the almost-obligatory slide show of the Class of 2020’s more memorable and hilarious, and whatever else can be done using ZOOM. They have even been having virtual proms.
Fun, innovative and a bit off-the-wall it may be, but it is no substitute for the real thing.
Some schools are planning to hold a graduation celebration for the Class of 2020 once COVID-19 social distancing rules have been relaxed, whenever that is. By then, some grads will be following career paths on the other side of the world. In every school’s Class of 2020 there are future members of the armed forces, medical professionals, mechanics, scientists, sales professionals, academics, actors, musicians, hair dressers, grocery store managers, entrepreneurs and maybe even a journalist or two. Should there be a graduation ceremony a year or two down the road, many will not be in a position to attend.
That consolation-prize party may make school officials and parents feel better, but it is a safe bet the graduates view it differently. There are undoubtedly a few tears being shed, some long faces, a bit of serious grumbling and a slammed door or two.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone, including older teens.
Senior citizens are well aware of their special vulnerability to the disease, and have been more isolated than they would want.
Those in the workforce have been worried about the impact the disease and the resulting two-month lockdown have had on the economy. Many people are out of work and fear the job losses may be permanent. Despite government assistance, some businesses will not survive.
As for little kids, their routines have been totally disrupted and they have been deprived of their school friends and playmates, not to mention beloved grandmas and grandpas and other extended family members. There are not allowed to enjoy swimming pools, splash parks or playground equipment.
Teenagers and young adults have suffered in their own unique ways. For those graduating from high school, the last couple of months are important – class trips, visits to colleges and universities, sports championships, seminars on careers, and of course graduation and prom. There will be friends and teammates they will never see again, with no chance to say goodbye. Technology is all well and good, but sometimes a hug or slap on the shoulder speak in ways words cannot.
Some of them, as well as older students graduating from college or university, have entered directly into the workforce without completing their courses. Those in health-related programs are a good example. They will have the certificate that says they graduated, but will always have the sense they missed out on something important.
They may not realize it now, but they have gained something, too. Few will be surprised when the Class of 2020 demonstrates unusual resilience and strength that will make them fine leaders in their chosen fields. Like other young people who came of age in troubled times, members of the Class of 2020 have had to hit above their weight and will continue doing so.
Bravo to the Class of 2020. You have our sympathy for the postponed prom, the cancelled trip, the grad ceremony that never happened. You also have our admiration for the way you responded to pandemic, ready to take on whatever challenges you have encountered, be it completing your courses online or going ahead with academic and career plans.