Dear Class of 2020,
Throughout the past few months, many have focused on what you lost in the COVID-19 pandemic. That's understandable, because it's longer than a quarantined family of five's grocery list.
But you gained a lot, too. And the way you handled adversity will help shape how you solve the big problems you will face in the decades to come.
The concerts and theatrical performances for which you worked so hard were canceled. The winter sports seasons ended without championships being decided, and spring sports never happened at all. Prom and other social occasions evaporated.
You had to trade in time spent with teachers and friends for online learning, online socialization, and all the stress and anxiety that come with living in what TV ads have alternatively referred to as "these uncertain times." (Somehow, those reassuring commercial voices have become anything but.) And then, in case none of that was enough to bring everyone down, the curtain was once more pulled back on this country's disappointing systemic racism, just as you were about to graduate. But in dealing with all of this, you have learned what resilience is all about, and applied it to the last days of your high school careers.
There's a growing understanding in education that the ability to deal with and learn from life's setbacks and failures is as important as any other skill taught in the classroom. It's a realization born out of reality: We all make mistakes and fall down, sometimes spectacularly, and things will not always go our way. It's how we deal with bad breaks and unlucky bounces, and learn from these setbacks, that teaches us how we can lead fulfilling and productive lives no matter what.
Considering all you had already been through, from the Great Recession to the horror of school shootings, it shouldn't come as a surprise that you rose to the
You adjusted on the fly. In mere weeks, you went from in-person classes on campus to online learning at the dining room table. You got a taste of how difficult it can be to stay motivated, yet stuck with it to the end. And when it was over, you found new ways to celebrate your accomplishments.
The adults showed some resilience and creativity as well. They did what they could to make your last few days of high school as memorable as they could, with plenty of car parades, individual diploma ceremonies and drive-up or drive-through commencement exercises held in places you might not have considered as festive destinations.
For example, it turned out that a car parade for seniors through Manchester was a lot of fun, and that the Bromley Mountain parking lot could be a great place for graduation.
At the very least, seniors of the Class of 2020, you'll have a heck of a story to tell your children and grandchildren — the one about how you lived through the COVID-19 pandemic and learned you could rely on your inner strength, intelligence and creativity to find your way through.
Wherever you're headed next, may success and happiness greet you here.