High school graduates rise above the COVID calamity | News, Sports, Jobs



Having a baseball season was one of the bright spots for Fredonia High Sr. Joey VanDette. Photo by Ron Szot

By Jean D’Agostino

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Members of the high school class of 2021 have been through a trying – and often bittersweet – period of 15 months. From the first shutdown due to COVID-19 in March 2020 as juniors until the final exams in the fourth quarter of this year, this collection of seniors not only had to tolerate a lot of uncertainty, they also missed so much in one of the biggest stages in life.

There was no coming home. Winter balls or scheduled dances were never considered until April. Sporting seasons have been shortened with some sporting events contested at unlikely times of the year. Finally, the reduction in in-person classes that included instruction via Zoom or Google Classroom made this unique trip even less personal.

However, through all the chaos created by a vicious virus, these upper class members endured. Their award arrives this weekend as more than 1,000 Chautauqua County seniors will receive their diplomas for all they have accomplished in an unprecedented time.

As New York State reopens at a rapid pace due to the increase in the number of vaccinations, there will be launch ceremonies and numerous graduation parties. It’s a very different situation than the Class of 2020 experienced last year, when no one really knew how to do it.

Nonetheless, there must be a lot of mixed emotions.

Maureen Donahue, superintendent of Central Southwestern Schools, praised the group in a letter published Thursday in the graduation section of the Post-Journal. “This class has proven its ability to adapt and be creative in the learning process, while supporting each other along the altered path you have all been forced to take.” she wrote. “You have had challenges and opportunities for growth that former graduates did not endure. Your flexibility and ingenuity will be very useful to you in all your future university, professional and personal projects.

Other principals have expressed similar sentiments. How not to be impressed by the work and the attitudes of these young adults?

Joey VanDette, a high school student from Fredonia, will graduate on Sunday. For the second year in a row, her district’s ceremonies will be held at the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds instead of the traditional Rockefeller Arts Center at State University of New York in Fredonia.

In an interview earlier this week, VanDette admitted some disappointment at missing the full experience. However, he remained optimistic throughout this unusual period in everyone’s life.

“It went as well as it could have been” he said. “It’s hard to start the year… with some people going back to school and some not. … I feel like towards the end of the year… in the fourth quarter, when everyone started to go back, things started to go back to normal a bit.

There are still a lot of feelings about what could have been for all of these people. Once the kids get through high school, they can’t wait to be on top – to have that moment in the sun and to be considered a grade 12 student.

“At first it was a bit hard” VanDette said in rethinking the fall and the distance learning model. “Everyone has always told me that the senior year is going to be your best year. It was supposed to be more fun with the freedom with your classmates. To have much of that taken away is difficult. “

One of the highlights for VanDette and a number of other students has been a return to athletics. VanDette, a baseball star who plans to continue playing the sport when he attends SUNY Fredonia next year, relished his moments with the team.

“I really like playing sports, so being able to do our season even if it didn’t quite go as planned. he said.

There’s no denying the impact COVID-19 has had on all of these unsung heroes. Much of the journey to adulthood has been taken away. VanDette, despite the ups and downs this year, does not want the 2022 class to face the same hurdles.

“I hope that for the (seniors) next year, they can get back to normal”, he said.

John D’Agostino is editor-in-chief of OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and Times Observer in Warren, Pennsylvania. Send your comments to [email protected] or call 366-3000, ext. 253.

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