To Graduating Seniors in 2020

A Note to Graduating Seniors in 2020

Good day, everyone!

I'm writing this because I didn't really get a chance to say goodbye to any of you. School isn't out yet, but I've taught many of you in some capacity during your time at SoHi, and I had always planned on shaking your hands on your way out the door on the last day of class, and seeing you all walk across the stage.

Now, everything is very different. I can't indulge in my reflective before-class talks that I start doing toward the end of the year, I can't sit down with you and get excited about the schools you're going to next year, and I can't encourage you one more time to stick it out and remind you that it will all be okay. As they say, you never know that you've had the last of something until well afterwards. The last day of class before spring break would have been a lot different if I had known that would be it for the year.

I'm going to miss you. I do already.

Some of you have already begun to float away as our strange and sudden arrangement of online classes has taken hold. We're watching the decline in participation from our online statistics and our grade books, and while I understand why that is, I wanted to say a few words to you in encouragement and farewell before you completely check out. I know why many of you are floating away - life challenges, new and old, that make school work hard to prioritize, are at the top of the list. That's okay. Things are different right now.

Here are some thoughts before you each wrap up the year for yourselves.

Your class has been through it all. We had years with bonfires and years without, three different schedules, amazing athletic accomplishments, theatrical marvels, dances, concerts, battles of books, incredible art and impressive construction. We have had our struggles, and we have had our victories. We have truly come together when we faced tragic loss. SoHi is quite the family.

Suddenly, right before your last quarter of school, this happened. Shutdowns across the globe reached us here in Alaska and we realized very quickly that we would not be able to go to school. Many of the things you looked forward to - Prom, graduation, sports - have all fallen off the calendar. It's disappointing, and it's sad in a lot of ways.

It's easy to feel like everything you worked for is suddenly pulled out from under you. Events, jobs, trips abroad, college visits, and financial stability are all in flux for so many. This is a strange new world, but you will survive and you will adapt.

You can be knocked down - and this has knocked everyone down - but you can pick yourself back up and go on. Do not let your ambitions or your accomplishments become casualties of this pandemic. Don't allow disillusionment to take root. Yes, this is unpredictable, dangerous, and frightening. We are all confused, and many of us will face loss of many kinds before it is over. But we can go on, and we will go on. Much of our stability relies on the outside world, but true stability comes from within.

Once the dust settles and the chaos calms, however long it takes, your perseverance, dedication, work ethic, and even all of the things you learned here will again reward you. You didn't do all of this for nothing. The human heart and soul has faced every kind of struggle, and has overcome. You can do the same. You are made of the same raw material as every person of durability, innovation, patience, and vision before you.

Keep dreaming about what comes next. Keep pursuing it. Put your minds and your hearts to work.

Take a deep breath, steel yourself, grit your teeth, and go forward. You can do it. This is a meaningful moment. Yes, we are being asked to stay home, and for many of us, that means unending episodes of goodness knows what. Some of us are finding time for what we wanted to do before but couldn't. For many others, it's work to keep society functioning. No matter your role in this, it is also a moment to pause and reflect. Now that you've been made to hit the brakes, consider: is the path that I am on the one that I want to stay on? Have the steps I've taken toward my goals been the ones I needed?

Once the curtain lifts and society starts back up, begin adding back the pieces of your life that you need to keep, and cut out the ones that you do not. Choose what concerns you and what doesn't based on what matters to you, not necessarily based on what's put in front of you by someone else.

Create the highest quality person and the most satisfying life that you can with what you have, and take solace in the knowledge that you have done your best. Speed bumps exist in life - there will always be something else to slow you down and make you feel like you should just stop. Don't let these roadblocks define you; define them by how you react and adapt.

You will make the best of this. It's in your nature.

Your class is close to me for many reasons and because of many things that we have gone through together. Remember to celebrate what fun you had, what friends you made, and what you've learned during our time together. I know I will.

Your family here at SoHi will be here to help during and after. Make sure you check back in, let us know how you are, and where you're going. You are loved, you are valued, and we are thinking about you.

Best,

Mr. E