Editorial: History will remember Class of 2020

  • Amherst Regional graduate Alexander Fruean checks the spelling on his diploma before heading to the stage during commencement exercises held outside the high school on Wednesday, May 27. Gazette file photo

Published: 6/3/2020 2:44:05 PM

Every generation is marked by a few defining events — cultural forces that divert history’s trajectory for decades to come. Of course, historical events like wars and natural disasters affect everyone. But the lives of young adults are particularly impacted. They’re the ones who ship off to war. They’re the ones who challenge previous ways of thinking and enter the workforce for the first time. They’re the ones who will pass on the torch to the next generation.

The future is always held by the youth.

The Silent Generation, those born before 1945, endured World War II; Baby Boomers experienced the Vietnam War; Generation X witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall; Millennials watched the World Trade Towers collapse in white smoke.

Generation Z graduated during a pandemic.

Their commencement ceremonies were held behind computers; tears of relief were shed safely behind car windows; well wishes were muffled through masks.

Typically, joy is the graduating class’s hallmark emotion. This year, disappointment and sadness are equally present. When Gov. Charlie Baker canceled in-person classes for the remainder of the school year, it didn’t just mean that students would have to adjust to an online format— a challenge in and of itself. It also meant that many youngsters (regardless of grade) wouldn’t get a chance to properly bid farewell to their classmates.

It’s an unduly heavy burden to bear, and we sympathize with their plight. No one asked for this.

But in the face of the challenges, we’ve witnessed local students, families and their school communities rise to the occasion with a positive outlook and a grateful spirit.

Take Amherst Regional High School, for example, where graduation ceremonies last week for more than 200 seniors lasted for several hours — graduates and their families came and went throughout the day in the less-structured format — and were carried off on a makshift stage set up in front of the school. Graduates elbow-bumped administrators, took off their masks long enough to smile for a professional photo to be taken, and then did what most graduates have done for decades — they celebrated with their families.

“I’m glad I got to walk the stage and that that wasn’t taken away from me. I’m OK with it,” Julian Cartagena said after the ceremony.

South Hadley High School graduate Maddie Doolittle, while disappointed to not be able to be in school with classmates and friends of 12 years, says it has helped this spring to focus on the accomplishments of her classmates. “We’re really trying to make this better for people, so we’re less worrying about ourselves. It kind of makes it easier in that way — we’re focusing on lifting other peoples’ spirits, and in turn it kind of does that for us, too.”

More challenges await this year’s graduating high school class after commencement. Many will enter the workforce remotely; others will begin their collegiate careers online. We wish them well, and hope area employers will sympathize with their plight.

As the pandemic continues to unfold, impacting just about every facet of life, there are a lot of uncertainties: How long will social distancing requirements be in place? Will there be a resurgence of cases when the colder weather comes? Will there ever be a vaccine?

Amid these concerns, one thing is for sure: history will remember the Class of 2020.


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