The Class of 2021 has grit. This year’s class of graduating seniors has spent more than a year navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. They have overcome and excelled in the face of upheaval brought on by a public health crisis like nothing we have experienced in our lifetimes.

During the course of the last two school years, these students have learned lessons not likely to be included on any state exam or end-of-the-year test.

These lessons were about perseverance. Personal responsibility. Adaptability. Resourcefulness. Social interaction. In some families, parents may have lost jobs, or struggled to keep food on the table. Families may have lost loved ones to the virus. These lessons have been about human nature and how people react to a crisis.

At times, these lessons were far more difficult than anything in an AP or college-level course.

The pandemic has required a lot of difficult decisions, but will also likely serve you well going forward. If, as has been said, adversity only makes people stronger, then the graduates in the Class of 2021 must have incredible reserves of strength.

When they accept their diplomas this year they will have certainly earned them.

This is not what the graduates likely envisioned when they entered the doors to their high school – or moved from the middle school wing to high school – four years ago. From those awkward freshman days, you have grown and experienced much.

Between their junior and senior years, this year’s graduates were forced to shift from a traditional classroom setting to remote learning and back to classrooms, or a hybrid model of some-remote and some in-person classes. They had to constantly stay on top of their schedules as little became routine, and nothing was the norm that they were accustomed to.

They learned new technology. And workarounds for when that technology didn’t want to cooperate. Then, there were the shifting rules and conditions that dictated learning plans and in-classroom protocols.

And still, whether discouraged or not, they persevered. The pandemic may have slowed them at times, but it didn’t stop them.

Theirs is a class with undeniable grit and determination.

As you can read in our annual graduation section, they excelled. The section, included in today’s paper, highlights hundreds of graduates from Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming county schools, with short, accompanying biographies of each school’s top students (A separate section, focusing on Livingston County schools was included in the June 24 print edition of The Livingston County News).

These students excelled in academics, sports, music – and life.

They have faced challenges, experienced ups and downs. And perseverance – and supportive teachers, coaches and friends – have shown them that it all works out in the end.

They are looking forward to continuing their education, entering the military or workforce. They have plans for careers in healthcare and engineering. They dream of making a difference in the world.

After all they’ve been through, do not bet against them.

We can only hope that this will be the last graduating class to have to deal with such disruption. Already, some of the challenges students faced are lessening.

But in the meantime, it is time to once again celebrate the triumphs of our graduates. While the world grappled with ongoing disruptions from the COVID-19 virus, the Class of 2021 set an example on how to overcome and finish strong.

Congratulations students of the Class of 2021 on a job well done. We share your hopes and dreams as you blaze a trail into your future.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1