Lyon County High School Class of 2020 ended a school year like no other in history, with all 58 graduates spending the last two months of their compulsory education learning at home through non-traditional instruction. This group of seniors missed out on a final season of spring sports, a senior trip and prom. Hopes for a graduation commencement hangs in the balance.
All thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now officially graduated, but without the benefit of the usual trappings that bridge childhood into adulthood, these seniors await the local board of education’s decision on graduation ceremonies.
School officials are holding out for a traditional in-person commencement, understandably with a few restrictions. Admirably, they are adamant at providing the Class of 2020 the same honors as every graduating class before them, even if it does not come until August.
A class night ceremony with scholarship announcements and other awards would likely be made available via YouTube Live, if plans hold out and the district is given the green light by state public health and education officials.
Regardless, this group of graduates will forever be bound with millions of others across the country by what they did not get to share. These teens did not get to spend their last days in the hallways visiting with old friends — friends that may go their own way, some to never return to Lyon County, some to return only for a distant class reunion.
These seniors did not get to spend carefree days in May sharing memories with classmates and teachers. They were robbed of the pats on the back, hugs, handshakes and tears that accompany those emotional moments.
There was no senior skip day.
They will not get to bask in the fun of class night, watching silly videos and slideshows of snapshots from their high school years.
Clubs, sports, band and extra-curricular activities were left in limbo when students exited the school on Friday, March 13, an ominous date for the final dismissal bell in 13 years of public education.
In fact, the 2019-20 school year ended as a sort of education purgatory.
However, what these adults-in-waiting received was the support of local educators, parents, friends, family and entire communities who sympathized with their plight.
But no one could empathize with their story, for no one before them had endured such. Even amid wars, unrest, disasters and economic disasters, schools still met and graduations were held. The customary accompaniments of closing out a school career might have been muted, but never missing.
The Class of 2020 was robbed of a typical senior year by the outbreak of a highly contagious virus, but was blessed with something special — a contagious spirit to adapt to circumstances and make the best of it. There were senior parades, Facebook adoptions, signs of support stuck in yards, banners from local businesses and heartfelt appreciation for what they endured.
There was no playbook for dealing with a pandemic, but today’s seniors honored within these pages can take pride in finishing life’s first big accomplishment with resiliency and adaptivity that will serve them well in the future. This was also an early and big lesson that life does not always offer what seems fair and reminder that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
COVID-19 changed how America, er, the world operates. Technology was used a crutch to limp through daily living, but revealed itself to the 21st century as a shortcut, time-saver and inexpensive way to accomplish what a 20th century way of life could not.
Look back, seniors — maybe at your college graduation; maybe as a passing thought in the middle of a workday years down the road; maybe at a class reunion 10, 25 or even 50 years from now; maybe over a beer on the deck of an old friend’s first home; maybe at your own child’s high school graduation — and smile at your unique experience. Think not of what was lost, but what you share with 3.7 million Americans who endured the same.
The Class of 2020 will forever be remembered as the graduates who ushered in a new way of thinking, a new way of living. Like after 9/11, there will be a pre-COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 world.
Seniors, this brave new world is yours. You are ground zero of a brand new way of life. Let the pandemic define you. Do well, rewrite history, make the most of it.
Above all, endeavor to persevere.