Congratulations, Class of 2020

Mark Gutman/Daily News Members of the Medina Class of 2020 walk to the seating area for their graduation ceremony on Friday.

This weekend that many high school seniors across the GLOW region are graduating. Though it is likely not the graduation they were expecting.

While schools have sought to preserve many of their commencement traditions, they have also had to adapt as a result of changing guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic that abruptly changed the school year in mid-March.

Schools were closed to in-classroom instructions. Students turned to learning through remote- and distance-learning initiatives quickly developed by teachers and administrators.

But along the way, many of the milestones that so many seniors look forward to – a final sports season, a final time on stage in the school play or music concert, the prom, the senior trip – all fell victim to the novel coronavirus and the restrictions it brought.

The senior year remained memorable, if for very different reasons.

Seniors were celebrated with yard signs, car parades and special videos. In communities such as Le Roy and Pembroke, there were efforts to “adopt-a-senior,” in which community members would deliver a basket or special treat with items that helped seniors know their community supported them. In other communities, pictures of seniors were displayed in downtown businesses.

The road to graduation has been very different this year, but the members of the Class of 2020 have shown great resiliency.

To get there, the seniors faced challenges that none before them had to endure.

They adapted to virtual classrooms, “Zooming” in to sessions with teachers. But there are shortcomings to technology in our rural communities, so some students’ families made regular trips to school to pick up packets of instructional materials. Students have had to study independently, away from their classrooms and classmates - and with the distractions of siblings and parents at home. They took Advanced Placement exams online, from their living rooms.

They learned new terms such as “social distancing” and why they needed to stay away from friends to try and curtail the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

For some, there may have been added anxiety over the uncertainty of their parents’ jobs due to closures, layoffs and furloughs which may have brought hardships to families.

As the students look to close out their high school careers and begin a new future,uncertainties remains. Workplaces have changed in response to new safety requirements. Those planning for college may find that virtual learning continues, or the colleges use a hybrid of in-classroom learning to begin the semester, and virtual learning at the end.

Like all graduates, the Class of 2020 deserves a hearty congratulations for all they have accomplished. But maybe this year we should give them a little extra cheer to acknowledge the challenges and sacrifices they have faced in recent months. Moving the tassel from right to left on the graduation cap may be extra meaningful this year.

The ceremonies this weekend – outdoors, on athletic fields, at drive-in theaters, in school parking lots , while wearing masks – will still be memorable. Perhaps not for the same reasons we expect from graduation, but memorable just the same.

The graduates have compiled stories and experiences that they will be sharing for years to come. During this historic pandemic, the Class of 2020 has truly earned its spot in history.

To the Class of 2020, you do have a bright, promising future. You have already faced unprecedented changes and challenges that can only strengthen your ability to endure whatever lies before you.

You have proven yourself. Don’t ever think you can’t accomplish anything that you want.

Congratulations. We wish you well.

Inside today’s edition

Included in today’s paper is a special graduation section celebrating the graduates of high schools in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties. (A similar section for Livingston County graduates appeared in the June 25 edition of The Livingston County News.)

The special sections were made possible through the efforts of many people, both inside the newspaper and outside. And, with the novel coronavirus closing schools and placing restrictions on businesses and gatherings, those efforts took on very different tasks.

We worked with counselors, secretaries and superintendents to gather information much like we normally do, but also looked for novel ways to fill in a few missing gaps. Some schools, for example, have traditionally taken the annual senior class picture in the spring. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to shutdown in-school instruction and the schools’ subsequent shifts to remote learning meant those pictures were not taken. We’ve compromised by collecting pictures of senior class members taken at activities such as “Spirit Week” competitions.

We’ve also shared some stories of efforts to recognize seniors - car parades were popular, and Lyndonville conducted personalized graduations.

We appreciate the helpful representatives from each of the school districts featured here and photographers who took class pictures and individual senior portraits that are the focal points of this keepsake edition. Some we have worked with for years, and others went through this process for the first time.

The school representatives are the unsung heroes of this edition which would not be possible without their contributions. Class lists and biographies of top seniors were gathered by communications or administrative staff at each district. They also promptly responded as the inevitable hiccups arose that come with putting together such an extensive section. When we needed to double-check a name, get a better quality picture, or had a question about submitted information their prompt responses allowed work to continue.

Here, it should be noted that the class lists appearing in this special section identify candidates for graduation from each school’s senior class as of early June. The students who meet the qualifications to graduate may differ from the published list.

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