So much of the fanfare of last year’s graduating class was shadowed by the pandemic. Many of us were working around the clock triage and barely filling the gaps so that students could finish, people could move on – and we could figure out how to live. We found ways to celebrate and to cheer – but there was a heaviness that surrounded all of us that made it difficult to lift the students up. As I write this, I am thinking alot about the class of 2020 – all of the joy and love and congratulations that were stolen from them. I think about how I tried, how we all tried, but how we fell short of giving them what they deserved even while we gave them what we could. Class of 2020 – you will always be celebrated, you will always be remembered and you will always have my utmost respect for simply finishing. You did that.
This year, is different. Not better, not regular, not easy BUT different. For the first time in over a year I joined the senior class at their high school campus last Friday to celebrate Decision Day. The first of the VERY exciting milestones of a graduating senior – the big choice, what college will you go on to?! At HLA, Ms. Toribio has created this incredible ritual of signing a document committing to yourself where you are going. One by one – every senior signs/decides/commits to what their next step is. IT.IS.EMOTIONAL.
Not every senior attended. Most of our seniors are working, many of them working 2 jobs – or full-time – and couldn’t get the time off. Some of our seniors are still worried about moving around in the world and being around people. We had about 40 students attend the event, approximately 34 of them had not been at the HS in over a year. They hadn’t seen each other, the High School staff and administrators. They hadn’t seen the hallways that were home to many of them since 6th grade. The pitch of their voices “remembering” the missing door in the bathroom ricochet off the empty walls. The elation in their jokes about forgetting what the classrooms looked like, or what color the walls were – or how small everything seemed filled the 6 feet of space between us. The cheers that escaped them after seeing a friend they hadn’t seen in months or over a year – were better than any pep rally I had ever been to. Their emotions were palpable. The joy was intoxicating, I don’t think I smiled that much in what seems like forever.
Thank you class of 2020 – your sheer determination to finishing in the absolutely unknown created the path for this class to do the same.
Thank you class of 2021 – your resilience and commitment to finishing cements my faith that you can do anything you decide to.
We can’t go backwards – but after last Friday, I can’t wait to keep moving forward, with these students leading our way.
Enjoy some photographs of the event.