DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The 2020 school year ended in a way students and their families never imagined.
Spring break turned into summer break. It’s hardly a typical year and for the graduating class of 2020, nothing about their lives has been typical.
Most of them were born during the the first year of the 21st century.
The United States swore in George W. Bush as the 43rd president.
Steve Jobs created iTunes and Janet Jackson topped the charts.
But in September 2001, the United States was attacked with the largest terror attack ever.
“My parents always talk about how the world just came to a standstill,” says 2020 Highland Park High School graduate Cole Jackson. They’ve all heard about how life changed.
“9/11 happened and my mom found out she was pregnant around that same time frame,” remembers Arlington High School senior Megan Maynard.
Demarieh Wesley, a 2020 graduate at Skyline High School, was born one year later.
The three students have never met, but they have more in common than they know. They’re now the class of Covid-19 graduates.
They were asked turn in their in their caps and gowns for gloves and masks. And through that process, this generation of resilient boys and girls have learned some important lessons while sitting at home rather than in the classroom.
LESSON # 1 STAY POSITIVE
“It’s going to help me grow as a person and I can use this situation in life for something else that can be down the road like a job or if it’s a career in sports,” said Wesley sitting tall and smiling with his focus on the future.
The three-year captain lost his senior lacrosse season but has continued to hit the fields. He has excelled in academics and athletics earning several awards in high school. He is now headed to Hampton College on a lacrosse scholarship.
“This is just one part of my story,” says Maynard who wants to be a chef. “It’s not going to stay the same. Everything is changing. This is part of the bigger picture,” explained Maynard.
A chef, or future restaurant owner, in the making, Maynard missed several major culinary competitions this spring, but she has been cooking and practicing as much as possible. This fall, she’s headed to the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin.
“Our generation is full of bright and smart kids,” says an optimistic Jackson.
A student council leader, top scholar, and music producer who runs his own music business, Jackson played his first big concert in Deep Elm in February right before everything shut down. He is now getting ready to major in Business and Plan II Honors at the University of Texas at Austin.
LESSON # 2 DON’T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED
They spent 13 years in school, but after three months at home, they’ve gained a new appreciation for the small things.
“Just don’t take anything for granted because even overnight it can all slip away, because on our last day of high school nobody even knew it was our last day and we can never get that back,” says Jackson
LESSON #3 ENJOY EVERY MINUTE
Maynard just thought getting up early for school and doing homework was awful, until it was all taken away. All of a sudden, she no longer had to do any of that.
“I regret not enjoying every minute I had with my teachers and with my classmates and all the stuff just walking down the hallway. It’s going to be hard, I know that, but those are the words I’d live by,” says Maynard. “Don’t take things for granted.”
LESSON #4 PUT YOUR ALL INTO WHAT YOU LOVE
The pandemic has given them perspective and a new respect for what they have. Wesley says if he could go back and play his last lacrosse games all over again, he might give just a little more.
“Take what you have now and put your all into,” says Wesley. “If you love something, do it to your all because you never know when it may be taken away.”
LESSON #5 DON’T BE DEFINED BY THIS PANDEMIC
These graduates insist they are not the so-called “Corona Kids.”
“We’ll always be the known as the people who were born with 9/11 and graduated with Covid-19, but most of us try not to be defined by what’s going on around us,” says Maynard.
They’ve learned important lessons in adaptability and resilience.
“Don’t let this define who you are,” says Wesley. “Got to live with it and get ready for the next chapter in our life.”
As the boys and girls of the class of 2020 become men and women, these graduates do not want the last few months to define them.