The events were certainly worth celebrating, and not solely because of the paper each of hundreds of students clasped in their hands the last couple of weeks.

We congratulate the students who managed to navigate the passages of high school, straits that had no charts or maps for guides the last 15 months. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has torn asunder nearly every aspect of modern life, including education. 

Students were sent home to complete their academic year last March. Many came back to the schools while others camped out in front of computer screens. Others did a mix of the two. 

Being a high schooler is never easy. Having to do it without many of your friends around doesn’t make it easier. Sure, kids can interact through messaging and other digital platforms. And the time-honored tradition of passing notes in class probably has given way to text messages or Instagram DMs. There likely isn’t anyone, in a virtual class, asking you to lean one way so they can look over your shoulder to get an answer to a test question that’s troubling them. 

But social scientists and other health experts long have agreed how important interaction is for adolescents. It might be fun — for a while — to have a school day turn into home work, but it also has its drawbacks. 

It’s been hard for teachers, too. Aside from developing different sets of lesson plans, they’ve had to adjust. It’s difficult to devote personal attention to a student through a Zoom session. 

The schools have done a superb job keeping kids and staff safe. In its final weekly COVID-19 update of the year, the Thomas County School System reported just one student out of nearly 5,800 with a positive COVID-19 test and none of its 851-strong staff with a positive test result. 

Thomasville City Schools reported none of its 2,760 students had a positive test result for the final week of the school year and just one of its 379 staff members were COVID-19 positive.

Yet in gymnasiums or on football fields, the end of not just an academic year like no other but the end of four years of work was honored and celebrated.  We don’t know what the future holds for these young men and women but if their collective persistence and endurance for the last year and change is any indication, it promises to be bright.

Our newest class of high school graduates, and the teachers, administrators and families who aided them in getting to the finish line are worthy of commendation and we salute all of them for their hard work and hard-won reward. 

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