Army dad drives 600 miles to daughter’s graduation
U.S. SSgt. Anthony Tillman flew 600 miles to be at his daughter’s graduation.
Militarykind, USA TODAY
Anyone who’s graduated in the last year and a half — college, high school or heck, even kindergarten — has undoubtedly been cheated. Coronavirus undermined or canceled the traditions they had expected to mark their rites of passage to greater independence and the next phase of their lives.
It wasn’t just about the loss of ceremonies such as graduation or prom. It was the isolation from friends and teachers, the scarcity of bake sales and group service projects, the frustrations of dropped Internet connections and unfamiliar equipment. Even after in-person classes resumed, students’ experiences fell far short of their expectations, as they struggled to hear classmates and teachers muffled by masks, and faced constant reminders to stay “socially distant.”
GRADUATES SPEAK: Class of 2021 pause, reflect on graduating during pandemic
Add to that the anxiety over the ground many students lost while schools were in upheaval — and their increased level of doubt over how prepared they were to take the next step, whether it was toward the employment marketplace or a new chapter of higher-level academia.
Put it altogether, and it’s clear: Last year’s seniors had every reason to be disappointed. Even as they acknowledged the efforts of educators, parents and the community to keep them focused on learning and to celebrate their accomplishments, the finale to their educations was woefully short on pomp and circumstance. Their experience was more akin to being shoved out the door in a manner that could be described, with great specificity, as unceremonious.
In both college and high school, the class of 2021 is having a more traditional experience. Most students returned to campus. There were sporting events, musical performances, even parties.
To the graduates
To those seniors, however, we acknowledge this: In many ways, your year was worse. While the coronavirus only affected the last few months of the previous academic year, this year’s cohort of high-school graduates have slogged through 14 months of pandemic, knowing that you’d probably be missing out on many of the rituals and celebrations that spread throughout a senior year. Meanwhile, those of you preparing to graduate from local colleges and universities have had to negotiate your next steps in ways no graduate cohort ever did, in an atmosphere rife with uncertainty.
It is remarkable, then, that so many of you stand on the brink of claiming victory. And though the cheers may not ring so loud in your ears as you expected, many of the people who love and support you are proud of your perseverance. Your communities are also proud of the way so many of you found time for service, or worked part time (or even full time) while juggling class schedules.
Future classes may have to struggle through pandemics — but you blazed the path, adapting to challenges few people foresaw. As a group, you met those challenges with ingenuity and grace beyond your years.
Class of 2021, you have been deprived of experiences that define a quintessential American senior year. But know this: There will never be another class like yours.
To the college students whose ceremonies begin this weekend, to the high-school graduates who follow in a few weeks, congratulations and be proud, as we are, of what you have done.