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Graduates earn praise and honor, especially this year

This is the time of year when we typically use this space to send praise and congratulations to high school graduates for their hard work and dedication.

Yes, we do that today, but we know this year is different.

This year, we honor students not just for their 12 years of dedication and focus but for unexpectedly enduring the last several months of a very strange and disappointing end to their high school years.

Like all graduating seniors, these students deserve the praise and honor they’ve earned, along with compassion and support. It couldn’t have been easy for them.

All Ohioans and Americans have experienced frustrations triggered by stay-at-home orders, closures and bans on large public gatherings triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of us, that time simply represented a few months out of our routine. For graduating high school seniors, however, that down time involved the final days of their high school careers.

Amazingly, it seems most students have weathered the storm well. They’ve understood; they’ve accepted; and they’ve continued their hard work to finish their studies and reach expectations.

They are to be commended for their strength and acceptance of the situation they were handed.

Now, after this unique end to their school year, seniors will experience very unusual commencements.

Teachers, administrators and elected officials at local school districts, too, deserve credit for creating very innovative ways to honor graduates who won’t have a traditional commencement this year.

Some local school districts sent school buses out in recent weeks to the homes of graduating seniors to deliver congratulatory posters and yard signs.

Several Trumbull County school districts like Warren G. Harding and Newton Falls High School are hosting pre-recorded and edited ceremonies on the big screen at area drive-in theaters.

Lakeview will stream a virtual graduation on social media.

Other schools, like Boardman, will hold in-person, one-family-at-a-time diploma presentations at Spartan Stadium. Austintown Fitch is offering a “hybrid” ceremony with in-person diploma presentations, but with pre-recorded speeches.

And in Canfield, board members personally will hand out diplomas to graduates at their homes, followed by a May 29 broadcast of remote graduations in the high school parking lot.

And these are just to name a few.

Each school district seems to have done a wonderful and heartfelt job of adjusting their situation based largely on the number of graduates and opportunities available to them.

Indeed, each is unique, but one thing will be common to them all.

Graduation is a special time because family, friends and loved ones share it with hardworking seniors. While the venues and the surroundings may change this year, that love and pride in our seniors will not change.

It’s true the Class of 2020 won’t have memories of walking across the stage in caps and gowns. But our seniors have so much to be proud of, including the incredible job of focusing on their studies, even during a global pandemic.

So in the coming days, we will celebrate in small family gatherings — whether in person or in a virtual ceremony. We will mark the achievements our seniors have accomplished not just during the last two months of quarantine but over 12 years of education during which they have developed into fine young men and women who will go on to achieve amazing things.

Congratulations, Class of 2020!

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