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Our View: Resilient 2021 grads will be ready for life’s challenges | COMMENTARY

Congratulations to the Class of 2021. Some 2,000 high school seniors from Carroll County Public Schools commenced with one of life’s most important rites of passage, graduating at the Carroll County Agriculture Center last week. It was a different venue from where Carroll seniors normally graduate, but it worked well enough and, anyway, what’s been normal about the past 15 months for this group of resilient young people?

They had a senior year they could never have anticipated when they began high school almost four years ago or even as they sat in their classes in early March 2020, unaware of how much their academic careers and their lives would be affected by the coming coronavirus pandemic.

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They missed out on so much, from homecoming to extracurricular activities to typical sports seasons to school-sponsored proms and, more than anything, the daily interaction with friends and teachers that had been taken for granted. High school students, literally, had a handful of days they were allowed to attend school buildings in person between mid-March 2020 and Jan. 7, 2021.

Virtual learning was vastly improved this year and we commend CCPS for doing whatever they could in a county that has some broadband deserts to be sure students had online access, but seeing classmates and instructors on a screen simply isn’t the same as in-person learning. The challenges were many, the uncertainty unsettling. The livestreamed Board of Education meetings likely never had more students watching as they tuned in time and again to see what changes would be coming in the next few days.

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None of it was what anyone wanted, but we believe the Class of 2021 will be stronger as they enter college, the workforce or the military after navigating such adversity. Perseverance and adaptability are traits that will serve them well in life and they certainly needed those to make it through the last 15 months. Indeed, this year’s graduates will be uniquely prepared for life’s challenges.

The graduating seniors we met over the past week understand that. Clearly, the experience was different for everyone and some students struggled mightily. But the uber-successful students we spoke to seemed to handle the pandemic better than their parents or officials or pretty much anyone else, keeping it in perspective, showing gratitude and living by that adage about what you do when life hands you lemons.

“I actually really enjoyed being on my own schedule and getting things done a little quicker,” South Carroll graduate Kelsey Shekore told us.

Westminster graduate Carrie Geisler agreed. “The flexibility of hybrid learning had a lot of benefits. ... I was able to spend almost the entire month of April traveling to visit colleges without missing very much school.”

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Manchester Valley graduate Lilli Malone said she learned a valuable lesson. “Some things are too big to carry on your own shoulders.”

The educators, sometimes maligned by the general public during the pandemic, were lauded by this group.

“I wouldn’t have been successful without help from teachers and without the technology CCPS loaned us,” Century graduate Madeleine Mason told us.

Ditto, from Francis Scott Key graduate Elizabeth Mahoney. “The staff at FSK have sacrificed so much for their students and have made this less than pleasant situation into a learning environment.”

And Winters Mill graduate Kristian Whitehead. “Most of my experience through virtual learning was productive and engaging 100% because of my teachers.”

Liberty graduate Emmerson Jordan summed it all up with the best possible attitude: “All things considered, this year was pretty normal.”

Again, congratulations to the Class of 2021. You persevered, you earned it and now you’re ready for anything.

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