(Editor’s note: The following is from student speaker Lauren Seeger)
As I walked through the doors of Osseo on my first day of senior year, I was already thinking about graduation day. This day would be our rite of passage into adulthood. The day when we suddenly understood life’s questions. Where we suddenly matured beyond our years!
And I remember wondering what the graduation speeches would be like. Something like “Now that you’re graduating, you need to be brave!” or “now that you’re graduating, you have to have hope that you will achieve your goals!” Something that every other graduating class in history has heard at their own graduations.
Maybe, I thought, those messages, to “be brave” and to “have hope,” were something that every 18 year old needs to hear. We need to learn to be brave while facing obstacles. We need to learn to have hope in the midst of our hardships. That we need to learn to persist. But as I thought about those messages, I couldn’t help but feel that, to the class of 2020, those messages are a bit, well, redundant.
Class of 2020, we were born in the midst of terror, danger, and uncertainty. On 9/11, innocent lives were lost, and the sense of national security completely crumbled. At the time, my mom was pregnant with my twin brother and me. She, like many of our parents, was scared to bring children into this broken world. We spent our formative years learning that safety was not simply given to us. That we needed to stay hopeful that things would get better. That we had to persist.
We grew up and started school. But as we were learning to read and do subtraction problems, our country suffered the biggest recession since the Great Depression. Our parents lost their jobs, food on our tables became scarce. According to the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study conducted by Princeton and Columbia University, this time had a “profound impact on children, both in terms of greater risk of emotional problems as well as increased behavior problems” (Vitelli). Every one of us braved the risks of that time. We continued to build the foundations of our education in the midst of panic, of poverty, of uncertainty. We made long-lasting friendships and happy memories despite it all. We had hope that things would get better. We persisted.
Fast-forward to our senior year of high school. For the past four years, we’ve cultivated our passions, we’ve worked tirelessly to get an A on an exam, to make the team, to get into college. We were one week into our last trimester of high school. It was supposed to be the trimester of celebration! All the tiring hours, all the tears, all the grit we put into our education despite the hardships. We’d finally get to celebrate that by playing on our varsity spring sports teams, by attending Senior Prom, Changing of the Grades, the Senior All-Night Party, and graduation on June 6th! But then, one week in, we unknowingly went to our last day of high school.
During what was supposed to be a time of celebration, we’ve lost our own jobs. We’ve watched friends and family get sick and some die. We’ve grieved what we’ve already lost, and what we may lose this fall. And yet, we are braving this storm too. We finished high school and made our college decisions in quarantine. We’ve sought essential work while wearing masks, we’ve created art, music, and tight bonds with friends and family. We persisted.
Class of 2020, we don’t need to hear what every other graduating class has heard. We don’t need to be told to “learn to be brave,” to “learn to have hope,” to “learn to be persistent.” We’ve LIVED those messages for our entire lives!
So, seniors, instead of telling you what we all need to LEARN, allow me to remind you what we’ve already been LIVING. We have shown bravery our whole lives, and that bravery has just begun to pay off by receiving our diplomas. We will stay brave now too. We have remained hopeful in times of despair, and those times have always gotten better. We’ve overcome our hardships and created beautiful, meaningful lives here at Osseo.
All memories, relationships, and lessons we’ve learned here are not diminished by these last few months. We will hold those many positive aspects of our lives close to our hearts and stay hopeful that this trying time will pass. And, most importantly, we have persisted through danger, through poverty, through uncertainty. So each and every one of us, no matter where we go or what we do from this point on, We will persist.