The Kids are All Right

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

My High school graduation, at the time that I experienced it, didn’t seem all that remarkable. There were some unique things about it: my grandmother, who I always assumed didn’t like me very much, gave me a pair of pearl earrings as a gift; my boyfriend, who liked me very much at the time, gave me a pair of vintage combat boots because I wanted them and was in a pre-grunge, new-wave music phase.

I wore both the earrings and the combat boots to graduation, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has met me. The earrings were confiscated in the graduation lineup by a faculty member whose job it was to make sure we weren’t breaking the dress code by wearing jewelry. She didn’t notice the boots.

But as I say, looking back on it 28 years later it was largely unremarkable for me, much in the same way that most graduations have ever been.

Until this year.

I certainly don’t need to tell you how different this graduation season has been for the Class of 2020. I’ve seen social media posts from parents of seniors who were devastated that their child might not get to walk across the stage. I’ve sat in school board meetings where administrators twisted their heads around how this class might be able to be honored in the way they felt the kids should be. I’ve spoken to faculty members who were heartbroken that they might not have the opportunity to tell the seniors goodbye.

The effects of this pandemic, whether you believe it is real or not, was real not only to the faculty and staff at schools but to the graduating class of 2020, and I’m here to tell you that the kids are going to be all right. I can say that without a doubt, informed by what I saw during this spring semester.

I saw kids volunteering to tutor underclassmen. I saw kids wearing prom dresses posing for photos in their back yards. I saw kids volunteering and mentoring others to run for student council offices in online elections. I saw kids making the best of it.

Which brings me to this graduation season, when I saw the best of faculty and the best of kids making the best of what they were handed in a situation over which they had little control.

Marlow High School’s commencement on Friday was a fundamentally impressive ceremony. When they played Pomp and Circumstance to accompany a parade of cars coming down the block from the Middle School, I had to push down some emotions I wasn’t expecting.

Coaches directed cars into assigned spaces. Administrators stood at the ready to hand out awards that they would have given at assemblies. The predicted rain split north and south on the radar, and the Class of 2020 were in socially-distanced vehicles.

After the honored seniors spoke, each senior in the front row exited their car at the proper time to receive their diploma and have their accomplishments and future plans read aloud before stepping off the stage to receive their congratulations at the awards tent. When those 11 were done, the drivers were directed around to the back and the lines all moved up while car horns were honked in place of applause.

And on. And on. All 85 seniors of the Class of 2020 were welcomed and honored.

Just as everyone thought they should be. Just as best as everyone could. Just as best as anyone could make it happen.

Every graduation experience is remarkable in its own way. This year, it’s remarkable in every way. Hats off and horn honks to all of the graduates.