An editorial page shout-out this week to every high school senior across Otsego County earning his, her, or their diploma. We won’t try to trip over words echoing what you heard at your respective ceremonies except to congratulate you doubly for your endurance, perseverance, and durability.
High school is already the world’s longest automatic carwash – you’re pelted with punishing jetstreams of water, slapped around by those rotating sheets of chamois, doused in hot wax, rinsed off with more of those jetstreams, then forced through superheated drying lamps and discombobulating high-speed fans. They’re all giant obstacles along the way blocking one’s would-be progress through life. But like your fellow alumni from the classes of 2020 and 2021 – and as your future fellow alum from graduating classes yet to come – you’ve had to face the one-two punch of all things COVID.
Addressing the school’s 143rd Commencement on Sunday, Cooperstown Central School District Superintendent Sarah Spross congratulated the students for withstanding two years of what she called “remote learning, then hybrid remote and in-person learning, masks on, masks off, masks back on, masks off but on voluntarily.” No one need be reminded of the see-sawing regulations, but her words were a fitting punctuation to her earlier praise for the class’s resiliency.
Students in their black gowns and mortarboards – some with honor cords and other earned adornments – lined up in the hot sun to receive their diplomas and be awarded some 60 different awards and scholarships. Friends and family applauded as their sons, daughters, and siblings entered the tent covering the ceremony on the back lawn of the Fenimore Art Museum; all stood and gave a rousing cheer for the faculty members joining the procession into the ceremony.
Every student and teacher there – just like every student and teacher lining up for the processions at every school district in our county – earned that applause and more. They plunged through a rigorous academic gauntlet while withstanding a social environment changed dramatically by a pandemic.
In spite of COVID (and we do mean in spite of), we think the challenge underpinning the Class of 2022’s academic and social achievements will lead to amazing achievements ahead. They’ve done the book-learning and passed all the academics, but that always-elusive real-world training that once awaited us only after we collected our high school diplomas became a huge part of earning a diploma over the past two years. Along with algebra, science, history, and grammar, they’ve had to learn new societal norms – some dictated not only by COVID, but by a general social upheaval affecting so many in our country and county. They’ve had to adjust and adapt in ways that haven’t always been a part of life inside high school walls. They’ve had to learn new technological skills. They’ve had to learn how to think fast and adapt not just because a textbook said so, but because life demanded they do so. They learned how to follow new rules by helping to create those new rules. These all are lessons that one does not get from a textbook, and all are attributes that will never fail them.
We hope every student is able to take a few moments to reflect on the accomplishment measured not by grade point average or plans for future study, but by how you stood up and won the challenge. Our heartiest congratulations to each and every one.