As a junior, now senior of the Class of 2021, I have walked alongside and looked up to so many students of the class of 2020, whether it be my brother who showed me several different sides of his high school career — the hype he brought to the superfan section and his passion for Model UN, Youth and Government, and Young Dems, or my Teen Pep parents who showered me with gifts and advice as I grew as a member of the program just like they experienced their previous year, or my chem lab partner who awaited for the email of acceptance to his dream college. No matter how difficult their path was, they always came out on top. That’s something I always noticed about the Class of 2020. It saddens me that they did not receive the final end to their 12-year journey of grade levels — decision day in the commons, prom pictures before an aquarium themed prom, their final stroll through the Hunterdon Central halls. I can’t even imagine what it feels like to be in their shoes. However, they came together as a class to share a common similarity — the hope they have always had that things would get better. And soon after the awful hardships of the year 2020 pass, new doors will open for each and every student as they walk out of Central for the last time (or in this year’s case, signing off their borrowed Chromebooks from the school).
Week after week after the unexpected last day of school (March 13, 2020), parents and seniors dreaded the day they’d get an email stating that graduation would be canceled, at least, that’s how it was in my household, however, this wasn’t the end. In light of the situation, parents and the school community virtually came together to create an unforgettable celebration to acknowledge and honor all the hard work and dedication of the seniors. A Facebook group created by a proud central parent gave every senior parent/guardian a chance to participate in an act of kindness to better a senior’s day/outlook on graduation. Each parent willing to engage would post a picture of their senior, list their future plans, their passions, and things they like (something as simple as their favorite candy or food), and someone would “adopt them.” As the cycle continued, hundreds of parents gathered an array of goodies — candy, gift cards, college apparel, balloons, stuffed animals, etc. — to create a thoughtful and sweet gesture to assure them that they will not be forgotten or overlooked.
Through the school, Central decided to plan a well thought out car parade that ultimately led to an increase of excitement for most. Teachers lined up along the campus, students and their families drove through with their decorated/festive cars, balloon arches, and posters were set up around the parade… although it wasn’t the typical graduation, it was a way to distantly reunite the seniors with their high school lives that felt left behind once quarantine began. Later that day, a virtual graduation was played through HCTV. Speeches were given from significant members of the school board, class president Gavin Capone, and senior speaker Gabriella Scarpelli, a moment to commemorate the lives lost of the senior class took place, the reading of every student of the Class of 2020 alongside their picture was presented, and the typical turning of the tassel and cap tossing was also done towards the end of the ceremony. Again, not the way graduation was pictured in the young seniors’ mind, however, this was definitely one for the books.
As a student of the Class of 2021, I have no say in how difficult this unfortunate ending was, however, I want to leave the Class of 2020 with this message, because through thick and thin, to me they were the upperclassman who continuously strived through hard times: No matter how real or unreal it may feel, you did it. You graduated. You should be so insanely proud that you survived each and every single day of these past 4 years. I wish you all a safe, healthy, and wonderful journey through the next chapters of your life because you deserve it the most.