An Open Letter to the Class of 2020 (From a Graduating Senior)


Cherise Kim

A graduation cap and Cambridge stole in front of a computer displaying the home screen for Zoom, a popular app for group video calls.

Cherise Kim, Editor-in-Chief

As the voices of various family members begin to escalate downstairs, all of them fussing about being late, you finally don your blue tasseled cap in the mirror.

Graduation day. You’ve been looking forward to this for the last 18 years.

The voices halt as you make your way down the stairs in your completed cap-and-gown ensemble and take a seat at the kitchen table.

You finally click to join the 2020 Graduation Microsoft Teams call.

Your parents proudly point the iPad camera in your direction so your grandparents can witness the momentous occasion via FaceTime. An audio clip of “Pomp and Circumstance” plays on a loop over the laptop speaker.

As opposed to the traditional stadium or amphitheater commencement ceremonies of years past, the class of 2020 will be moving our tassels and tossing our caps from inside our homes amidst the current coronavirus pandemic.

With the recent increase in cases of the virus COVID-19, otherwise known as coronavirus, Fulton County Schools have shifted to remote learning to continue instruction while students practice social distancing in their homes to prevent further spread of the virus.

In an order from Governor Brian Kemp, Georgia schools are not to reopen for the remainder of the semester. This uncertainty leaves the fates of several spring events, such as prom and graduation, up in the air.

During a meeting of the Fulton County School Board, Superintendent Mike Looney announced that all previously scheduled commencement ceremonies have been canceled, and that FCS is working with venues to sever existing contracts.

FCS is working to host a virtual celebration for all seniors in May, with the possibility of using schools’ stadiums for in-person celebrations should shelter-in-place restrictions be eased by that time.

For seniors, the time-honored traditions of events such as prom, graduation, senior picnics and the baccalaureate are an essential part of our last semester of high school. Attending our last school dance, donning a cap & gown, walking across the stage and tossing our tasseled caps in the air are all cherished memories many were looking forward to making.

As with most events right now, we can still make those memories from the comfort of our own homes.

While hair and nail salons will be allowed to open back up soon, girls may still have to forego their typical appointments, instead going the old-fashioned route of getting help from their mothers and various YouTube tutorials. Pre-prom dinner can consist of the finest cuisine our fridges and dining rooms have to offer, before hopping onto the 2020 prom meeting on Zoom.

Seniors who purchased a graduation package consisting of a cap, gown and diploma cover may not have to return their items. We may simply have to don them to pose in front of our webcams instead of on a JumboTron.

Perhaps we will click the W key to walk across the virtual “stage,” then click E for a virtual “elbow bump” greeting with Principal Kim Premoli as an email notification slides into view on the screen. The subject line is “DIPLOMA.pdf.”

Or perhaps we will still have an in-person ceremony that is simply postponed; we can pull out the gown that was collecting dust in the back of the closet and walk across the stage under the sweltering July sun.

All jokes aside, it is easy to think pessimistically about the possibility of missing out on these events. After all, many of us have been looking forward to them for years.

However, it’s important to remember a couple of things: first, that the situation is continually evolving. The situation in two weeks could look entirely different from what we are looking at now.

Second, everyone still wants these events to happen, even if they cannot occur in the same way as previous years. Though we may have to make modifications, such as finding a new prom venue or pushing some dates to much later than expected, we can at least rest assured that students, teachers and administrators are all working tirelessly to make them happen even in light of the circumstances.

Lastly, and most importantly, it is important to remember that our high school experiences are not defined by a few events at the end of the second semester. The purpose of these events is to celebrate our accomplishments, which have taken place over the span of the last four years.

Of course, we all want a memorable final chapter with which to end our high school story. Of course we want our last hurrahs before exiting this portion of our lives.

But while it is certainly valid to feel sad and mourn the loss of these milestones we have been looking forward to for so long, we can also commemorate our time as high school students by standing with each other during this tumultuous time and acknowledging ourselves and our peers for the work we have done in order to make it this far.

Plus, this crazily atypical way in which we’re ending high school will make a very interesting story in about 10 years or so; this certainly isn’t your mother’s high school graduation.

So, members of the class of 2020, I may see you in dresses and tuxedos in a few months. I may see your icon on my computer screen as we wait for everyone to log onto the commencement ceremony Zoom call.

Regardless of where we may gather next, it has been an honor to spend the last four years with you. I cannot wait to see where the next four take us.