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A word to the graduates

For county students, it happened in May. For city students, it happened last week. No matter the timeline, a milestone has taken place: Congratulations, seniors! You have graduated and are starting your next adventure.

This year, that once-in-a-lifetime milestone was marred by days of fear, anxiety, uncertainty and grief. Our local seniors, along with students across the nation and the world, had the majority of their spring semester snatched away from them by the coronavirus pandemic that, it feels like at times, has turned the world upside down.

Although commencement ceremonies and celebrations looked a little different this year – have you ever seen people purposely sitting six feet apart and wearing masks over their faces at a graduation ceremony? – this is still a time of great achievement, and we join all those brimming with pride for the senior Red Devils, Tigers, Bulldogs, Bobcats, Wildcats and Golden Tigers who got the chance to walk across that stage, turn their tassels and step forward into the next phase of their lives, one step closer to being “adults.”

It seemed like an iffy proposition, at first, to host traditional ceremonies this year, with so many people packed into one place. But we’re glad our seniors got to experience this important rite of passage the way they deserved, bringing at least a little normalcy back to their final year of high school.

We congratulate you for the work you have put into your education to this point, and we join the chorus of voices wishing you the best for your future.

Years of organized education have now come to fruition for Franklin County seniors. They have studied their way through countless assignments to get to where they are today, tackling tests, projects, pop quizzes and research papers to gain the knowledge and skills needed to embrace their futures. Spurred on by the tireless commitment of their teachers, guidance counselors, parents and other family members, these seniors have reached the pinnacle – at least, the pinnacle of this phase.

In a commencement address last year, Oprah Winfrey encouraged the graduates, “The most important thing is how you’re touching other people’s lives … The truth is, you cannot fix everything, but what you can do, here and now, is make a decision – because life is about decisions. And the decision is that you will use your life in service; you will be in service to life.”

We know you have already learned that lesson of service because of the way you have borne it out in your lives. You are shaping the future, and we are proud of you. We hope you will embrace a spirit of tenacity and commitment to achieving your goals and dreams – changing the world for us all.

We also like the sentiment of a certain illustrious doctor – Dr. Seuss. Theodor Seuss Geisel, in his last book published in his lifetime, shared words of advice that have become perennial favorites to share with graduates as they turn the page to the next chapter:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go” (Oh, the Places You’ll Go!).

Seniors, whatever you choose to do next, we wish you all the best as you go forward in life.

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