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The Class of 2020 will forever be a special group.

Born into the world the year after the September 11, 2001 attacks, they have never known a world in which terrorism and the resulting increased security did not exist. A world where “see something, say something” was the motto of their preschool years.

When they were in their elementary school years, the floor fell out of the economy. Jobs were wiped away, houses lost. For many families, and the children who are part of them, uncertainty about finances and their futures was a day-to-day worry.

And as they grew up, these students were in the wave that was faced with an increasing number of school shootings across the nation. Columbine happened just three years before they were born. Unlike the generations before them, school safety wasn’t just about a school-yard bully. It was about survival.

And here they are, 18 years later and a pandemic has shut down their senior year, and with it, erased prom, spring sports and graduation ceremonies from their calendars.

It doesn’t seem fair.

But as the end of the school year approached – this weekend marks the traditional date on the calendar for area graduation ceremonies in Clinton, Camanche and Fulton, Illinois – the students and their families have adapted to the strange times we are living in.

Whether it be a virtual graduation ceremony online, a drive-by parade featuring graduates in cars, or a banner recognition drive-thru in Clinton’s Eagle Point Park, area celebrations are happening. Thankfully, our graduates are being recognized and honored for their hard work – which is what we want to do here today.

So, to our graduates:

While your celebrations aren’t the norm, we know you are making the most of them.

By adapting to a world that recently has cut us off from each other, you are reaching out and showing us that life goes on, good things continue to happen and there is something – a future– to look forward to.

In essence, you are teaching the rest of us to be resilient.

Enjoy your celebrations in whatever forms they take.

And know this, that as each of you follow your paths into an uncertain world, we are rooting for the Class of 2020.

Congratulations!