Recently, I was asked to write a letter to a graduating member of the Class of 2020 at the request of a civic organization. I’m ashamed to admit I may have missed the deadline to submit it for distribution at local graduation ceremonies, so my co-worker, Cassandra, suggested putting it in as a staff column.

For the graduating members of the Class of 2020,

Congratulations on your recent graduation from high school! Multiple doors and paths beyond those doors lie open before you waiting to be explored. Whether it’s a future at college, a post-secondary school training program or if you are entering the workforce right away, your life will be full of choices. Some of those choices will be easy to make and others will be difficult and require a lot of thought and consideration. I hope you make the choices that keep you happy, healthy and safe. 

You encountered peer pressure in high school; and in adulthood, it will still be an issue.  I’m not here to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do specifically. I believe people are capable of making their own decisions. What I am suggesting is that you consider your true friends. True friends encourage, love and accept you for the person you are. They do not try to change or influence you, and they don’t pressure you to do something you think is wrong.  You will meet many new people in the coming years, and you have to ask yourself “Is this person going to be my true friend?” for there will be many who will try to make you feel guilty about the person you are. Remember you are unique, so unless you’re comfortable with it, don’t feel you have to change to suit someone else. 

If you are continuing your schooling through college or job training, don’t forget to make studying a priority! I know this seems obvious, but there are a ton of distractions that can keep you from being the best student possible. For me, in college, my Achilles’ heel was spending too much time playing video games. It can be easy to blow off going to class, especially an 8 a.m. one, but don’t forget you are investing in your future and you “reap what you sow” if you slack off in schoolwork. I promise you studying hard and keeping up with classes, no matter how early they may be, will pay off.

Lastly, I’d like to address the unusual circumstances for your graduation ceremony. I believe important ceremonies can never be expected to go exactly as planned.  As a personal example, my college graduation took place on a particularly windy day. My cap blew off twice; and as I climbed the stage to receive my diploma, I tripped. I was so embarrassed that the rest of the day I dwelt on how foolish I must have looked. My point is things pretty much never go off without a hitch. Yes, you may not get to have a traditional graduation, but think how unbelievably special this moment in your life will be years from now. I can tell you no complete strangers wrote my class letters of encouragement at our high school graduation. Truth be told, it was a bit plain, simple and kind of boring. 

There are a lot of people in you guys’ corner right now wanting to make your day special and memorable for years to come.  Unless you’re not aware, many more people are writing commencement addresses for your class. From celebrities like Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey to recording artists and politicians. They are all wanting to make the Class of 2020 feel celebrated and encouraged during this extremely unusual time in our world. There may not be a walk across the stage or platform, and there may not be a handshake from the principal, or headmaster/headmistress when you receive your diploma, but there is a silver lining. Congratulations once more, and best of luck in the coming years! Don’t forget to throw your cap in the air!

Nathan Schuver is the business manager for the Sea Coast Echo and can be reached at nathan@seacoastecho.com.

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