By Jasmine Willis
This is the time I would be covering multiple high school graduations.
I would be hearing inspiring speeches from the graduates chosen to honor their peers that year. I would be hearing the band play prepared uplifting music to encourage the future.
There would be a sea of graduation gowns, tassels, and creativity as students ushered in the end of a four-year journey.
However, for the first time in over five years I am not covering a high school graduation ceremony. I am seeing many graduates feeling lost, cheated, and hurt they didn’t get to have their final walk on that stage of their youth.
I can commiserate with the feeling our youth is having today. In my day it wasn’t a pandemic that cheated me out of my last walk. It was other things in my life that would make me able to feel compassion and a sense of union with our youth.
I had gotten sick in my freshman year of high school. It would be halfway through my sophomore year that I had to leave it all behind. To me that was the ultimate failure.
However, it didn’t end there for me. I went to a very encouraging teacher who taught G.E.D. Classes at the Batavia Genesee Community College.
After four months of determination and deep focus I got my G.E.D. I became a graduate in 2004! I had to wait for my graduation ceremony too. I had to wait a year to graduate with my peers! It would be July 16,2005 when I finally got my gown, tassel, real high school diploma, and have that feeling of true accomplishment.
My mentor and teacher Rosalie Kisiel made me the student speaker. She knew even at that point that I had a voice. I had a story that needed to be told. It needed to be shared. I had to wait a whole year to share it!
The feeling of walking that stage for my certificate, moving my tassel to
the other side, and sharing my story with a crowded auditorium is something I have kept with me my whole life. I told the story of a girl who had a million dreams. she thought that once she got sick those dreams would never happen. she thought that once she failed she would never get back up. That girl stood infront of hundreds of people and poured out her soul. she liked to think that her story made a difference.
As a fellow traveler on this journey I can tell each and every one of you that your story makes a difference. The things you learn in your youth are always with you. That feeling of the last walk stays with you in all
your big moments.
You are not alone Class of 2020! We are all proud of you! We believe in your dreams. We support you in your journey. We know that no matter what happens you will get that last walk of your youth. You will wear those gowns. You will tell those stories. You will share these moments with your peers.
That day when you look back it won’t be about how you waited or what was taken away. It will be about the moment we watched you all shine!
Congratulations Class of 2020!