By Mary Beth Sallee
Dear Class of 2020,
It is with sincerest of apologies that I write this letter to you under such circumstances. As you have reached one of the biggest milestones of your young life, it has not come in the most traditional or expected of ways.
In April, your school shut its door for the remainder of the academic year because of the invisible enemy known as COVID-19. Life as you knew it changed.
Each one of you, I’m sure, had some type of aspiration for your final weeks of high school. Perhaps it would have been that defining moment on the field with your teammates.
Maybe it was finally finding the nerve to ask out the girl you never had the courage to talk to. Perhaps you needed to apologize to someone that you unintentionally hurt. Or maybe you simply needed to say “thank you” to the teacher that provided you with not only a great education, but invaluable life lessons as well.
Unfortunately, a pandemic hit and so did reality. You were faced with no senior prom or trip. While you will have some sort of graduation, it will not be on a football field or in an auditorium with a countless number of family and friends. You never knew that your last day in those hallways was truly your last day.
As the Class of 2020, you and your classmates were thrown into unknown territory for which no one has the answers.
What will happen to your freshman year of college? For those of you going straight into the workforce, will there be any jobs available? Will you need to stay at home to help alleviate the financial strains that your family may be facing?
Just as a wildfire can quickly destroy a forest, so has this pandemic destroyed the plans of many. But there is still hope down the road to come. When faced with a dilemma, people respond in admirable ways, and it is without a doubt that each of you will rise above the ashes as well. You will go on to build bigger and better things, to create brighter and bolder futures.
There will be heroes to emerge from this chaos, perhaps from the very Class of 2020 itself. These are tough times you are facing, but the role this pandemic plays in your story is truly up to you.
I ask you to leave behind any sorrow or self-pity you may be feeling. Instead, go out into this world as we know it and face it head-on. Be kind. Be brave. Seize every opportunity that you can. But above all, know that only you hold the pen as the author of your own story.
What will that story be?
Congratulations and best wishes from someone who has gone before you.
Mary Beth Sallee resides in Hart County with her husband and son. She works as a reporter for the Hart County News-Herald.