Here’s to the Class of 2020.

You are about to do something that has never been done before, in the most extraordinary of ways and under the most extraordinary of circumstance.

Through technology that simply wasn’t available when your parents were in school, you’re going to graduate on time. Granted, that cap and gown is going to have to wait a few months, but you will have the opportunity to walk with your classmates and celebrate your accomplishment.

What an accomplishment that will be, albeit with a heavy heart.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the captain of the tennis team or play in the seventh chair in the clarinet section. The ace pitcher, or the FFA chapter president. The star shot-putter on the track team, or the student body treasurer. There are memories missed that simply can’t be replaced.

The six months you spent perfecting the “Flight of the Bumblebee” on the flute for the state music solo competition. The endless hours honing that unhittable softball “riser”. The nightly frustration trying to calculate the coefficient of friction. The fruits of those efforts will one day be realized.

Not this spring, unfortunately.

I graduated Glide High School in 1991. Had this pandemic hit that March, I would be in the class of ’92. The technology wasn’t available to keep up on classroom requirements. We didn’t have Chromebooks, and were a good five years from using AOL on a dial-up connection (which might have pushed me to the class of ’94, frankly).

Fast-forward almost 30 years, and I have a cousin who, despite the obstacles of this pandemic, will still graduate early. Natalee Dold is a junior at Hillsboro High School. Her mother, Becky (Gifford) Dold, is a 1990 graduate of Roseburg. “Natty” would have been a third-year starter on the Spartans’ softball team and was planning to follow her sister, Rainy Dae, to the diamond at Mt. Hood Community College.

Today, she’s simply wondering when she’ll get to walk with her classmates.

“I was really looking forward to having a senior night, to go to prom, go to graduation parties. Just do the things you do as a high-schooler,” said Natalee, who also plays for the Hillsboro Diamondbacks ASA squad during the summer. “I don’t even know if we’ll be able to do anything this year, which is upsetting.

“It’s hard to think we’ve worked so hard to walk across the stage, and it’s hard to see that taken away from so many people. I don’t want to be selfish, because I know a ton of people are experiencing the same thing, but it’s hard.”

After spending the entire summer in online classes to make sure she could graduate a year early, Natalee says she could still see the writing on the wall over the past few weeks.

“I kind of saw it coming, but I’m just one of those people who never really loses hope,” she said. “I’m not one to just give up on something. I made the commitment to (graduate) this year, so it hit me harder.”

It is indeed hard. It’s hard on the teachers who have invested years into their students’ success; on the parents who have worked a lifetime on their child’s success; on the coaches, teaching lessons not always learned in a classroom.

Not that these students have forgotten any of those lessons. In fact, this year’s graduating class may indeed leave with a resiliency unmatched by their predecessors. Those lessons, more than ever, should be used as an arsenal as this graduating class moves onto its next ventures.

So, Class of 2020, go paint your colors high on that rock at the edge of town. Take up the whole rock. Put accents on the hillsides. Then lock the access gate and bury the key. You’re going to make it, and you’re going to have quite the story to tell when all of this is finally over.

The Class of 2020 will indeed rule.

Donovan Brink can be reached at 541-957-4214, or at dbrink@nrtoday.com. Or follow him on Twitter @donovan_brink.

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