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Mark Archibald, Daily Sun columnist

I hated high school, but some 25 years ago, stuck inside that school building for another year, I considered myself a non-essential member of the yearbook staff. Among my responsibilities was to compile a spread of the biggest news stories. In 1995, the advent and proliferation of the internet dominated. The world-wide-web forever changed the way the world communicates.

There isn’t a doubt that this year’s big story is Covid-19. The virus has taken life and at least temporarily changed the economic outlook of millions of Americans. Arguably, the biggest impact of the pandemic has been the insidious nature in which it has stolen time from each of us. Had this year gone as expected, Friday, May 22 would have marked Corsicana High School’s Class of 2020 commencement ceremony.

I know I won’t be the first, but to the graduates, I offer my congratulations. Each of you made it to this important benchmark. In the last three months you’ve seen life take unprecedented twists and turns. Routines were replaced and time seemed equally able to drift away and drag on. Achievements were noted, but celebrations which normally accompany one’s Senior Year were muted.

Those who came before you recognize that the virus altered or robbed you of rites of passage that were earned. You weren’t able to experience this time as you had hoped, and for that we are sorry. Your graduating class will not be forgotten, in fact, this experience may be the catalyst for the impossible. While reflecting the trials of 2020, many have pledged to not take the future for granted.

We’ll consider it a class gift.

While the sting of Senior Year losses remains fresh, everyone in this class has the ability and necessary fortitude to meet the challenges and opportunities which lay ahead.

I wasn’t self-motivated in high school, or college. Digital learning wasn’t my forte, I required the structure of a classroom setting. Thanks to technological advancements, many educational lessons and work meetings can now happen remotely.

Once a novelty, virtual gatherings are becoming second nature. My hat is off to the parents, students, teachers, and staff who assisted this year’s Senior class down an unknowable path, all did so with vigor and compassion. The teachers, staff, and administrators care about you and tried their best to make this as normal as possible under these circumstances. They deserve gratitude.

Remember, a commencement ceremony doesn’t mean graduates have learned all that is necessary; graduation is just one place to pause along the pathway to the next opportunity.

In the void of Covid-19 opportunities to learn remain. Recognize that the human body and spirit are capable. Since you were last in a classroom, the outside world has been defined for you, now is your opportunity to begin to leave your mark. In the last three months each of you have heard the term essential worker, but we all have an essential role to play. This is your time, go forward and make the most of it.

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