A Message to Fellow 2020 Graduates

Victoria receiving her diploma.

By Victoria McDonald

Graduation is a time that everyone remembers. No matter if it is two years ago, or twenty. The feeling of turning that tassel from left to right is a moment that sticks with you until the very end. It is a feeling of accomplishment, proud that thirteen years of work finally paid off. When you get that taken away from you, heartbreak cannot explain the emotions you feel. The novel coronavirus changed everyone’s way of living, but it shook the graduates of 2020 to the core.

In March of 2020, the graduating class was told news that would devastate them: our senior year was cut short, stolen from us. Our lives had been leading up to the moment we would get to walk across the stage and enjoy every activity that came along with it. Prom, a theatre arts class production, a theme week in honor of the senior class, and whatever else came along with it. June of 2020 was our month, our final farewell to our high school career. We didn’t know that day at the end of March would be our last day with our friends, the last time we would sit in class together, and the last time we would walk the halls of our high school.

We heard our rounds of “It’s not that bad” or “People are dying, it could be worse” and of course, it could be worse; we still had the right to grieve over something we worked so hard for. We sat in our houses, sad over the last few memories we could have made with our friends. Some worked, some got laid off, and some took up hobbies. Along with losing the end of our senior year, we had to learn how to do online school in what seemed like a single night. We were in a world where we had to alter our everyday lives to accommodate a new and likely permanent living style.

In late April, it was announced that schools would not be able to host a prom. Students that bought their dresses and had appointments booked were forced to cancel, some of the boys rejoiced in the fact they would not have to wear a suit on a hot summer night. Deep down, no matter how relieved they were, it still stung. It was one other thing that everyone else got to experience that got taken away from us. We felt hopeless, believing all we would get was a diploma in the mail and a congratulatory Facebook post. Then, as cases began to dwindle down, the parents became more comfortable with hosting a drive by prom. As we moved into the yellow zone of the recovery phase, the schools also announced that we would be permitted to have an outdoor ceremony if we followed social distancing guidelines.

Victoria at her prom.

On Monday, June 15th all the graduates of North & South Esk Regional High School gathered at the Red Rock Lodges for prom pictures. We then travelled to the Sunny Corner Arena to stand in the parking lot, where over 200 cars drove through in a parade to support us. The $1000 dresses did not go to waste, and the students felt a little more at home knowing we still got to have a ‘prom’. On Thursday, June 18th, we gathered behind the high school, six feet apart, and were called one by one onto the stage to receive our diploma. We got pictures, scholarships, and even had a few laughs. We got to see our entire class together one last time.

In 2020, the graduating class had their senior year stolen from them by a global pandemic. Despite that, our generous community believed that we still deserved to have as much as we could get. Together, they pulled together and showed us support and gave us something we would remember for the rest of our lives. Our graduation year might not have been the same as years before, but it will be one of the most memorable ones. We have a story to tell our children in years to come. After the grief and the heartbreak, we were taught how to live in the real world before we even had to leave high school, and I would not have it any other way.

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