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A graduation unlike any other

The Millerton News Editorial

No matter when it happens or under what circumstance it occurs, one’s high school graduation is a rite of passage. On that, we can all agree. Something else we can all probably agree on is that this year, graduates of the Class of 2020 from around the world have one thing in common — they experienced a highly unusual senior year due to being caught in the midst of a global health pandemic.

At year’s end, 2019, the coronavirus was just beginning to make news. A couple of months later, it was all we were hearing about. By March, COVID-19 had made its way across the globe, from Wuhan, China, to New York, N.Y., which quickly became the epicenter of the deadly respiratory illness in the U.S.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo swiftly took control of the health crisis in the Empire State and shut down schools and all nonessential businesses — pretty much sealing the fate for students for the rest of the academic year, unbeknown to them, their parents, their teachers and their administrators at the time. 

But it’s taken many months to flatten the curve in New York, which is one state that seems to have done so successfully, thanks largely to Cuomo’s leadership. This while many other states, like Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas are now seeing their numbers of new COVID cases spike, after reopening too quickly and haphazardly despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health organizations.

So, New York students were told to finish their school year remotely — a disappointment for seniors, especially, who missed out on so many of the traditions they had looked forward to for so long: prom, homecoming, their senior awards ceremony, and, of course, graduation.  

Thankfully, administrators in our Harlem Valley school districts made it a priority to make graduation special for the Class of 2020 — even if they couldn’t provide a typical commencement. The North East (Webutuck) Central School District held its graduation partly on the field behind the high school — socially distanced — and partly at the Four Brothers Drive-In Movie Theatre. The Millbrook Central School District had students and their families park in their vehicles and watch a personalized video presentation projected on a large screen, and then diplomas were hand-delivered to the students’ vehicles. The Pine Plains Central School District, well, it hadn’t announced plans beyond a vehicle parade as of press time, but we’re sure it will do something special as well. All districts wanted to make graduation day both memorable and unique for their seniors — something to celebrate at a time when the traditional processionals, large gatherings and group hugs aren’t being permitted. For that, we’re sure the students are appreciative.

And to the graduates, don’t despair because your last few months of high school turned out differently than you might have hoped. It’s through adversity that we learn; it’s through being challenged that we grow. It’s through hardship that we muster our strength. It’s when we are faced with problems that seem impossible to solve that we somehow come up with solutions that are creative, inspired. 

Draw from your experience of being quarantined these past few months and of being educated remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic as you move forward — whether you enter college, trade school, the work force or the military — and translate what you have learned into information you can use in your daily lives. Take from what you have seen going on in the world around you recently — this is really an extraordinary period of time — and grow from it. You have just graduated from high school. It’s time to join the adult world; it’s time to begin thinking like an adult.

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