Congratulations, Class of 2021.
A year ago at this time, we lamented Rock County’s students in the Class of 2020 who were robbed of their graduation ceremony by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent state guidelines barring in-person ceremonies.
For the Class of 2020, it was the year that ended in sudden, unprecedented fashion. The dates clicked by on the calendar without spring sports, year-end academic challenges, prom and, yes, graduation.
For the Class of 2021, the year started and ended in what could only be described as a challenge.
The pandemic school year was challenging for students, teachers and families who yo-yoed between distance learning, in-person learning and variations of hybrid models.
Having to learn a new way of doing things, whether that was getting used to masks all day in school and in sporting events, taking classes online or adapting to wholesale changes in their social and learning environment on the fly. It involved long stretches of not seeing friends in school or being able to talk one-on-one with teachers.
It also meant sudden cancelations and changes in schedules and a general acceptance that no plans could be certain.
Except that graduation would come in the spring — regardless of the path taken to get there and regardless of the means taken to celebrate it.
It wasn’t easy for the Class of 2021. Nor was it easy for the pandemic-robbed Class of 2020.
But then, life isn’t easy.
And under the best of circumstances we celebrate high school — and college — graduations because they signify a challenge met. A goal reached. A task accomplished.
The 2020-21 school year is ending on a high note, especially compared with last spring.
We had a mostly normal spring sports and activities season. We enjoyed a junior-senior prom. And we received our diplomas on a stage with our loved ones cheering in the audience. In person.
And we took a spin through a celebratory parade, because the pandemic produced a few ideas worth repeating.
So, dear graduates, we congratulate you on reaching this stage of life. For surviving the pandemic-altered world and coming through on the other side with a diploma.
We’ve all learned a great deal over the past two years, right along with students, teachers, staff and families. We’ve learned that change can and will happen, often quickly, but we know we can adapt and succeed.
With that, we wish the Class of 2021 all the best. We know that these pandemic graduates, like their 2020 predecessors, have what it takes to survive and thrive.