Some accolades are merely for show, a check-the-box reflex that has all the meaning of a certificate of appreciation for sportsmanship or participation.
Today’s graduation ceremonies are not among those events. This is more than a grip-and-grin formality.
The St. Joseph School District’s graduating seniors earned this day, however late and watered down it might seem in the final weekend of June. Starting around St. Patrick’s Day, their senior year was absolutely scrambled. A global pandemic meant no proms, no spring sports and no anticipation building up to the final day. Sadly, there was no in-person ceremony in May for graduates of Benton, Central and Lafayette high schools.
Everyone at the three public high schools did their best to adjust, with virtual ceremonies and parades that featured seniors waving from automobiles. It was the same pomp, but with some unusual circumstances. It wasn’t a participation certificate, but it wasn’t quite the same.
We hope that today’s outdoor ceremonies, which still come with restrictions and health guidelines, add a sense of closure and accomplishment for more than 600 students who started kindergarten 13 years ago. We hope that most students and families are able to participate at one of the three different locations.
It was Helen Keller who once noted that “character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.” That’s cheesy inspirational poster material, but it really is true. There was nothing easy, though it seemed eerily quiet at times, for the class of 2020. At least that was the case at the very end.
Adversity does build strength and resilience, so these seniors should have developed ample reserves for the challenges ahead. Let’s hope that three months of disappointment and adjustment leaves them a little better prepared for a future that’s sure to throw plenty at them, whether they stay in St. Joseph or venture out into a wider world. Let’s hope the experience leaves many of these students hungry for a college graduation ceremony in 2024.
At the very least, you can always say that your trip was longer and stranger than the typical experience.
It will be a long time before today’s graduating senior needs to give a “back in my day” lecture to some whiny teenager who complains about this or that injustice or inconvenience.
They day will come because it always comes — time moves a lot faster than the average teenager realizes. (That’s one piece of advice you can bank on.) Some day, you can tell them all about how their little setback doesn’t match up to what you and your friends encountered in the spring of 2020.
You should have quite a story to tell.