Finding different ways to honor our graduates

By now, most, if not all, of our local high schools would have held commencement services for their graduating senior classes. That hasn’t happened this year, at least not in the traditional sense, for obvious reasons.

There still is some discussion at certain schools of holding in-person ceremonies at a later date — a few folks have mentioned potential dates in late June or even July — but even those are up in the air as we wait to see how restrictions on crowd sizes and social distancing are handled in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, schools, parents and community groups have been coming up with some inventive ways to honor these graduates as they begin the next phases of their lives.

Some schools have held “virtual” graduation ceremonies, where students are called in in small groups, with a few family members to watch, handed their diploma and given time for a few photos. It’s not the pomp and circumstance we are used to, but in some sense there is still a bit of closure opportunity as they wear their caps and gowns and get that moment of crossing a stage with family looking on.

I’ve been told there are plans in some of these cases to eventually show their services, either through social media or possibly a local television station.

In Weirton, a group of the senior parents from Weir High School organized an effort to get banners made up of their graduating sons and daughters. Working with the City of Weirton and others, those banners are now hanging throughout the city to be viewed by all residents.

Students from Weirton Madonna High School and Tri State Christian Academy also have been included in the effort.

We are living in an uncertain time. While many are working to get back to some sense of normalcy, we truly don’t know what the next several months hold. That shouldn’t keep us from finding ways to celebrate the important milestones of life, though.

Sometimes, it just means being a little more creative, whether it is holding group meetings through some online video conferencing program, a parade of friends and family to celebrate a birthday, or a special community demonstration.

Graduating high school is just such a milestone and needs to be recognized. These young men and women are leaving their childhood behind and moving forward, whether it be going to college or a trade school, enlisting in the military or joining the workforce.

They are opening up a new chapter and there should be some form of celebration.

These are unique circumstances, so it is only right their celebrations also are unique.

However this momentous occasion is observed, I wish all of our local graduating seniors the best of luck as they take these next steps.

Enjoy this moment, for whatever it might be worth.

Take this opportunity to reflect on these last few years of high school, the lessons you have learned, the relationships you have built and the goals you have accomplished. These will all be your building blocks in the years ahead.

Look forward to your future while remembering the past you have created. Look to your experiences for guidance as you head into the unknown that is life. Build a future of which you can be proud and do what you can to leave a positive impression on others around you.

Congratulations to you all for your accomplishments.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)


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