Honors this week and next go to the Grand County High School Class of 2020. You will long be remembered in history far more than most other graduating classes, but it’s probably not a notoriety you would have chosen.
These are the moments you’ve been waiting for, but they’re not commencing quite like you may have hoped. And neither were your last months of school, which for a senior are usually peppered with final tests, trips, yearbook signings, speeches and yearnings for personal bests.
COVID-19 has turned the world on its ear, dashing hopes, traditions and the security you deserve and for which you have been preparing. Few would have guessed when this year dawned that your last months in school would have ended in such a strange fashion. My deepest hope is that the uncertainties of these times will gird you to clear the future’s unforeseen hurdles.
The shutdowns of our pandemic have caused innumerable disappointments, not just for students, but also for administrators, educators and family members. Many of you will forever wonder how things would have turned out if a disease hadn’t stopped us. Debate team members will wonder whether their last speeches could have won them medals at state. Track records posted at the high school will stay just as they are now, since this year’s bunch of speedy runners couldn’t get clocked to challenge the old times.
We won’t ever know how our various spring sports teams would have faired this year, whether in the pool, the tennis courts, golf course, the soccer pitch or the ball field. Sadly, the classes behind you wonder if they will ever know life as you all knew it, until about March when all of our worlds started to change in various ways.
There have been some creative adjustments to help make up for your disappointments. I’ve enjoyed seeing your faces line light poles along Main Street, although I wish I could see your graduation line in person. I’m excited to cheer you on next week as your cavalcade parades down part of Main Street and on to the high school. Lots of people will tune in on TV and radio.
Just as your lives are different, the school you are leaving behind will never be the same. There will be new administrators at the high school, new protocols for attending class and enjoying lunch. There is a new superintendent, but most of you knew Taryn Kay when you were elementary school kids.
Every year during graduation time I think back to when I tossed my mortarboard in 1981. That was when high school was being held where the middle school is now — the very same building that will be leveled next winter when the new middle school is finished.
As many of you know, there was a cement plaza surrounded by tam junipers and rosebushes where the graduation ceremonies were long held. A decade ago or so it was turned into a lunchroom, after the new high school was built in 1997.
Anyway, we had a regular dress rehearsal in caps and gowns on the morning that was our graduation day, the females dressed in white and the men in red. Luckily we got some pictures then of what was supposed to be unfurled by evening. But as the day wore on, heavy purple clouds filled the sky, portending terrible weather for the evening. As the dread of rain turned into reality, administrators made a quick decision to have us graduate in the only big inside venue they could use in a moment’s notice: the chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 400 North. (I would have preferred the gymnasium, but I wasn’t in charge and the speaking system was probably poor.)
Most of us, whether Mormon or not, were terribly disappointed that we couldn’t receive our diplomas on the veranda where everyone else had gotten theirs for generations prior.
But my sob story pales in comparison to the type of graduation you will have on May 28.
Our community honors you, the Grand County High School Class of 2020. We want you to journey far, stay safe, never stop learning, let Moab be your foundation, and help to create a hopeful future for the world around you.