As the graduation season begins, it’s time to pay homage to high school and college seniors who have overcome historic obstacles, including missing out on both junior and senior rites of passage, including proms, athletic events, parties and traditions at their schools that COVID-19 made dangerous.

For high school seniors, it has meant rethinking colleges, future careers and the very application process itself. Standardized tests, once the biggest determining factor for college admittance, were bypassed. How are you going to do the hyper-monitored test via Zoom? Answer: You aren’t. Grades and essays became even more stressful for these students.

College campus visits, while still taking place, were potentially more stressful than fun. Most of those would have taken place in the latter part of their junior year or the summer between junior and senior year. Travel restrictions were still in place then. It simply wasn’t safe or wise to travel.

There was literally not one aspect of their school experience (remote junior year and most likely hybrid their senior year) that was “normal.”

The problems of high schools’ class of 2021 is summed up by one blogger on the Marian Network, an Omaha high school’s online site.

“The inevitable process of deciding on the right college, my future career and leaving home are enough to petrify any senior,” wrote one senior. “On top of all of that, the Class of 2021 is missing out on what is supposed to be the best time of our high school experience.

“Although the Class of 2020 also missed out on events like prom, a normal graduation, and the chance at taking home first place at Field Day, the incoming seniors might not get a chance to experience a senior year at all. I feel as if the Class of 2021 has gone unnoticed due to the sudden changes in everyone’s lives. Since the graduated seniors were forced to suddenly end their whole high school careers online, nobody thought about what might happen to the incoming seniors as the pandemic continued to worsen. Seniors usually go into their last year with their heads held high, their hearts full of excitement for a year full of lasts. However, my class is going into our senior year with uncertainty and anxiety.”

Yet, the writer and other teenagers are overcoming the obstacles and should justifiably be proud on graduation day.

Their resilience is inspiring.

Graduating college students faced those obstacles and more. Instead of being hampered in their search for a college, their challenges involve starting a career. The whole process is different. Interviews are Zoomed. Job fairs are daylong, fairly complicated Zooms.

Luckily, thanks to aggressive vaccination programs, many graduations are in-person … sort of. At Cleveland State University, for example, the graduating class is divided by school into a morning graduation and an afternoon session, both being held at Progressive Field. The Ohio State University is having a modified in-person spring commencement in what will be the first non-virtual commencement since late 2019. The ceremony will take place at Ohio Stadium, but with no more than 13,500 attendees in each of two commencement ceremonies to allow for physical distancing.

We tip our hat to all these students for their pioneering accomplishments in distance learning, their resilience and most of all, for their perseverance. Good luck to all! You should be very proud.

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