Dear Class of 2020,

Congratulations!

You not only survived the rigors of high school, but got through the back half of your senior year in the midst of a global pandemic.

Those were probably the months you were most looking forward to. They were the months when teachers tend to let you coast a bit, and when the anticipation of being done (finally done!) with high school is palpable pretty much every day.

Most of you lost out on senior traditions – awards banquets, skip days, proms and traditional graduation.

You left your classrooms one day, and simply never returned.

There’s got to be a sense of loss for many of you because you didn’t get to close out your senior year in the normal way.

But what, really, is “normal”?

Merriam-Webster defines it as “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.”

Your generation is not one of conformists. Yours is a generation of strong, opinionated and generous teens, many of whom know what you want and where you’re going in a more profound way than your parents did.

During the past few months, we’ve run stories about the videos you’ve produced, the masks you’ve made and the good deeds you’ve done.

We’ve written about your petition drives, and fundraisers – about the socially conscious kindnesses you’ve extended, even as you perhaps mourned the loss of your senior year traditions.

You’ve lost out on things, definitely, but many of you have given back in the face of adversity.

And while you may not realize it in this moment, you’ve also gained a lot.

The challenges you’ve faced will solidify in you the ability to adapt and overcome.

If your parents had their druthers, we’d bet, they would do whatever they could to ensure each of you could dance through life without ever experiencing a single difficulty. But they also know that is unrealistic.

No one gets through life totally unscathed by challenge, and the way your year was abruptly cut short certainly was one.

Adaptability is a key skill in all facets of life.

Things rarely go just as we expect, and as you move forward in life, you’ll find that happens at an increasing rate.

There is no script, and when things go askew as you start your post-high school life – and they will – recall this time. Remember how you felt, and how you got past it.

Most importantly, remember that these unexpected changes weren’t the end of the world.

They weren’t what you wanted, but you got through it.

Each of you is a trail blazer. Some of you may blaze that trail on a national or international stage. But blazing your trail is less about fame or notoriety, and more about knowing who you are and what you want out of life.

While it might not seem like it right now, the challenges you’ve faced this year have and will continue to provide you with the strength of character you need for both of those things.

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