My 18-year old son Caleb is a high school senior. When he left his school on Friday, March 13, he knew he’d be transitioning to online learning for at least three weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak—but he had a sinking feeling that would end up being his last day at that school.
He was right. Like so many teens across the country, he will be finishing his senior year from home. Caleb is missing many of the senior year traditions he’s been looking forward to his entire high school career: prom, a weeklong service trip, the seniors vs. faculty basketball game, and a pep rally he’d been helping to plan—plus, of course, the chance to walk across the stage and accept his high school diploma at graduation.
My husband and I are so proud of Caleb and all he has accomplished. He’s a stellar student, a varsity athlete, and co-president of the student body. He was accepted to attend Stanford University in the fall, which has been his dream since middle school. And even though he doesn’t know what his freshman year of college will look like right now, Caleb always stays positive. He told me what he’s been telling his friends who are disappointed at how their high school careers have ended: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened!”
The high school class of 2020 was born in the aftermath of a national crisis: September 11, 2001. I remember being eight months pregnant, watching the news on that tragic day, and wondering whether the world would ever be the same. Now these young people are graduating and starting their next chapter in the midst of another national crisis and more uncertainty.
But I know that just like Caleb, young people across the country will meet this moment with optimism and perseverance. They fill me with pride—and they fill me with hope.
I hope you’ll join me in honoring and celebrating the class of 2020. Even without the cap and gown, they deserve to know how special they are.