alchemy

An open letter to the class of 2020

Column by Andrea Doray
Posted 6/9/20

Dear Class of 2020 Graduates: Congratulations on your accomplishments! You have achieved great ambitions … not only throughout your years of study but also by navigating the time of coronavirus (or …

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alchemy

An open letter to the class of 2020

Posted

Dear Class of 2020 Graduates: Congratulations on your accomplishments!

You have achieved great ambitions … not only throughout your years of study but also by navigating the time of coronavirus (or “the rona,” as I’ve heard it called) to complete your degrees.

For most of you, though, your graduations didn’t go as planned, as hoped for, as dreamed of, although you still may have been recognized in more abbreviated festivities: Communities hung banners to honor you. Yard signs proclaimed: “A [fill in the school] Senior Lives Here!” Friends and family staged drive-by celebrations. Celebrities offered tributes.

Videoconferencing made parties possible. Schools hosted virtual ceremonies. These were – and continue to be – moving demonstrations of love and support that I’m sure you appreciated.

But what now? What’s next? What does “commencement” mean for you, class of 2020?

I asked a few of you. My sister’s neighbor Heath graduated from Arvada West High School, and is now headed for CSU. He tells me his senior year workload was pretty much what he expected and that his online classes – including AP testing – went well.

A West is planning a graduation ceremony for Aug. 15, but Heath isn’t sure he’ll attend. “I have my diploma,” he said, “and I just think things will feel different after this summer.” Heath said that, for him, commencement means more than the physical act of graduating, and (like many of you, I’m guessing) he’s ready to get out into the world.

My neighbor’s daughter Kylee is expecting a virtual graduation this month from Dartmouth, where she majored in English and creative writing. Missing the actual ceremony is particularly disappointing this year because it is also Dartmouth’s 250th anniversary. “The class of 1970 planned to return to campus and the class of 2020 would have walked with them,” Kylee said. Her physical graduation is now planned for June 2021, but Kylee wonders how many people, realistically, would return for the ceremony.

“This is a strange time,” Kylee told me when I asked her about commencement, “not knowing what the future holds. We’re going out into the real world, whatever that means now.”

Sarah, who is graduating as an M.D. from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said the whole thing feels anticlimactic, after all her years of work. “We had a virtual ceremony for our convocation commencement,” Sarah said, “with pre-recorded speeches from the president and chancellor, and a presentation with our photos. And we took our physician’s oath.”

Sarah said her family and friends could not be present for the event due to stay-at home orders “It was all pretty underwhelming,” she said.

And commencement? “It hasn’t really hit me yet that everything has changed,” she said. “It didn’t feel like a big celebration of this milestone, but I’m ready to move on and be a physician.”

Commencement means different things to each one of you, I’m sure, and my fervent hope is that the next paths on your journeys will take you to challenging, fulfilling and rewarding places.

To Heath, Kylee, Sarah and all the seniors in the class of 2020, I offer my sincere admiration, my heartiest congratulations, and the very best of wishes for your commencement.

Go forth and stay safe.

Andrea Doray is a writer who wrote in a recently published poem: “Instead of 2020 graduation tassels, face masks now hang from rearview mirrors.” Contact Andrea at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

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