Does adversity build character? If so, I have little doubt the class of 2021 will ever face a challenge or obstacle they cannot overcome.
Graduating in the midst of a global pandemic is no small feat, yet our students have met the challenge and persevered. The resilience these young adults have displayed and their ability to adapt to change, accept their situation, and achieve are unparalleled. I am not suggesting it was easy nor that they enjoyed it, simply that they adapted and learned through effort, they can still reach their dreams despite the challenges. Sadly, the class of 2021 will be remembered as the COVID class, but it was not the past 16 months that should define them.
As kindergarten students, they learned their letters and how to jump rope. They discovered how tricky it was to identify a lower case “b” from a lower case “d” and that the sounds were similar, yet not the same. After multiple tries, they learned to tell the difference with confidence. On the playground, they tripped and scraped their knees learning to jump rope. At first, they could jump the rope one or two times and after much practice, they could jump the entire “Cinderella Dressed in Yellow” song.
In middle school, these students learned that math was not just about numbers and when letters are included as variables, it changes what was a simple problem into a complex puzzle. Yet again, the class of 2021 did not give up or quit, but rather, persevered and learned that sometimes you have to get things wrong before you learn to get them right and to never give up. Middle school is also where they learned that even though they were told that sticks and stones may break bones, words do actually hurt them. The class of 2021 learned to navigate relationships and the effort it takes to keep them healthy.
It is an injustice to define 2021 by the past sixteen months and the pandemic. It has been the past 18 years, which have molded these fine young adults into who they are today. The nurturing from their families, the community that cares about them and of course all of the educators in their lives from the custodians to their teachers and everyone in between that has supported their success. The pandemic did not create them and should not define the class of 2021 it merely highlighted their strengths and proved to the world that there is hope for the future.
Scot Stockwell is the superintendent of the St. Helens School District. He may be reached at 503-397-3085.