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As the calendar turns to May one thing we all notice—it is going to be a busy month in the High Plains. Commencements are on the horizon for families and friends who will eagerly share advice and gifts given to graduates.

A year ago, activities were put on pause, as the COVID-19 pandemic made many celebrations into a video production, delayed some events and in a few unfortunate cases they were cancelled. The experiences of the Class of 2020 will serve as a reminder of what the virus took away—traditional commencement activities—and we must not forget the achievements of the 2020 graduates as we honor 2021 candidates, whether they are in high school, college or vocational schools. They experienced a year of disruption and in-school attendance took a backseat while health officials and elected officials grappled with public policy to deal with the spread of the virus. A positive test by one student could put an entire classroom in quarantine for two weeks and that delayed many academic and extracurricular events.

Yes, the 2021 class felt the brunt of the virus.

This year’s celebrations will return with traditional pomp-and-circumstance although social distancing and other precautions will limit attendance. However, let’s not underestimate the importance of celebrating achievements at all levels. The pandemic taught us that learning never stops. This May graduates will receive diplomas that will stand for perseverance.

Thankfully, states in the High Plains and school boards and regents have recognized the importance of allowing graduation activities again. Those of us who grew up in or continue to live in rural communities understand the importance of education and have an appreciation for the teachers, coaches and administrators who made a commitment so we that we can earn a living, take care of families and improve our communities today.

The rural spirit is alive and well and the stars shine. Those stars are the students who will enter the next phase of their careers. This month should be about completing coursework and enjoying the relationships built and nurtured. It is a time for graduates to say thanks to parents, grandparents and other family members who guided them. It is OK to say thanks to teachers who understand that learning is always possible even in the face of obstacles. They can offer a prayer of thanks to God, the creator who made it all possible.

Once the time for celebration is over and thank you cards are sent, it will be time to plot a future. Our hope is that the lessons learned in the past year can serve as a reminder that we must have a sense of optimism and that we can accomplish anything if we focus. For example, today’s graduates can help explain why broadband technology is a tool that can help future students and businesses to stay competitive and thrive.

Enjoy the cake, the punch and most importantly the gifts of love, friendship and hard work. The 2021 graduation exercises are going to be ones to enjoy and will not be forgotten.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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