Onward and upward for the Class of ‘21

Congratulations to our graduates! They made it through another tough year, learning through pandemic conditions that called for remote instruction, hybrid learning, limited physical contact, restricted activities, canceled programs, mask mandates and one-of-a-kind ceremonies including graduations and proms and all the other traditions they had probably been looking forward to for years that had to be tailored to COVID-19 versus their teenage fantasies. It couldn’t have been easy.

However, successful adulthood isn’t built on easy. It’s built on resilience, hard work, determination, stick-to-itiveness, creativity, thinking outside of the box — all lessons our graduates were forced to learn in 2021 — year two of the coronavirus pandemic.

Like it or not, COVID-19 toughened up the Class of ‘21. Would any of us have chosen for our seniors to have gone through a year like 2021? Of course not. Who would want their child to suffer through quarantine conditions; be educated in remote and less-than-ideal conditions; be denied access to athletic programs, extra-curricular activities and other school clubs; be unable to meet in-person with fellow students, teachers or counselors; be unable to access on-campus meal programs or after-school programs? No one, of course. 

Somehow, though, they made it through. It is now the end of the scholastic year. Next week will be graduation. For all three of our school districts: Webutuck, Pine Plains and Millbrook, that day falls on Friday, June 25, barring bad weather causing possible postponements. 

We wish all of our graduates the very best. You have done a superlative job making your way through what has undeniably been an incredibly tough year-and-a-half. Your growth as students and as human beings has been tremendous. 

Not only have you seen the world struggle through a global health crisis and slowly come out on the other side — although we must never forget that 3,890,946 people across world lost their lives so far as of Tuesday, June 22 — you have seen the world rebound from an economy that dropped like a lead balloon.

When COVID-19 hit, the business sector suffered just as mightily as any other — and millions upon millions of workers became unemployed while millions of others had to figure out creative ways of how to restructure their jobs in order to stay on the payroll.  

Now, as our graduates of today prepare to enter the working world — whether immediately after high school or after first entering college, trade school or the military — we encourage them to do so with an eye toward retaining the kind of flexibility that so many developed during the pandemic. It’s hard to predict just what awaits you in the “real world” once you step off that graduation stage, but rest assured it will lack the kind of warmth and support, the nurturing and kindness you found in your local Harlem Valley school districts. We would certainly hope that all of our graduates might find that kind of support system in the outside world, but we wouldn’t want you to count on it. After all, it can be a hard, heartless world. That’s just the truth of it.

That said, it can also be a wonderful, exciting and magnanimous world, one which our graduates should look forward to joining — but always, please, with caution and eyes wide open. As you prepare to do so, we wish you the very best on the next leg of your journey. Whatever that may be, whether you decide to enter the military, college, a trade school, go straight into the workforce or to take a gap year — may you do so with a clear mind, in good health and with the best of intentions.

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