Not quite a year ago I stood before a handful of a specific few of the class of 2020 and I said: In August 2017 you crossed the threshold of my classroom as my students and on that particular day some 16 months later you were leaving the same classroom as my friends. You see, I knew I that was my last day in that classroom. I knew I was moving to a new job. I just could not tell you yet. I could tell you the most important thing on my heart though. You had all crossed over to the point of being my friends. You had won my respect, support, and encouragement for the rest of life.
My journey with the Class of 2020 was kickstarted with two things I was not quite excited to do. I never really wanted to teach A.P. World History and my fit as your Sophomore Class Sponsor was awkward at best. It was you, every last one of you, that made these roles two of my favorite experiences as an educator. I know this happened in large part because of the resilience, tenacity, and grit found deep in your character.
You were born into a world of tragedy as you are the graduating class born closest to the 09/11 terrorist attacks. You grew up in a world where parents and other older family members were learning to exist with scary new realities. Your early life milestones all took place with the back drop of a world at war. Just a few years into your formal education the world was upended again with the massive economic upheaval of 2008. Many of you across the country lost instructional time due to natural disaster such as hurricanes, wild fires, blizzards, and tornadoes. Many of you also lost educational experiences as you marched alongside your teachers in various national education labor movements in 2018.
Your path has not been an easy or a simple one. You made it to 2020 though. This is your year. This is your time to go out with a bang and launch forward to the world changing lives I believe you will lead. Then tragedy struck the world much like the time surrounding your birth. However, this was not an act of war or terror, it instead is a global pandemic. Just as you were set to start the last few weeks of high school the world changed again, possibly forever. There is nothing in our lives to which to compare our current reality. We are all learning how to exist again every day.
As your teacher and your friend my heart breaks for you. This is not how you were supposed to end high school. This is not the celebration and send off you each deserved. Yet I know you will use this just like you have countless other setbacks in life, and you will rise to the challenge of leading the way to a better future on the other side. You are the right senior class for this time. Your leadership, creativity, and relentless spirit will define the future in positive ways. I wish your path was more normal, but I know none of you are simply ordinary.
Cry over the lost experiences. Mourn what is. Then dig down to your core traits and dominate your future. I know you will because I have watched you do it over and over already. You are a graduating class like no other and I am excited to watch how you shape the world.