Born in the shadow of 9/11, you began your school-aged years as the Great Recession loomed, and now have had your senior spring experience cancelled by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Class of 2020 can’t seem to catch a break.

When I joined the Waconia School Board during your 1st grade year, there were state funding freezes and gaps that have not been made up for even now as we both “graduate” from the district – you seniors this spring, and me on December 31st when I will retire from the school board after serving three four-year terms. Your entire school career happened during a time of school funding shortfalls.

Here in Waconia ISD 110, you were the first kindergarten class to be offered an all-day attendance option, and the last to attend the “old” high school as 9th graders. You entered school in kindergarten just as all buildings had expanded, but within a few years you once again began to feel a space crunch worse than any classes before you. And although you have enjoyed abundant space since moving to the new high school as sophomores, you attended Clearwater Middle School during its four most crowded years. You were freshmen at the “old” Waconia High School (now Waconia Middle School) during its most crowded year – where you learned to walk patiently, literally shoulder to shoulder, with your peers and upperclassmen through the hallways, rarely using lockers because it was just not practical to get to them nor open them in crowded conditions. You learned to weigh the value of a possession by whether it was worth “risking it” to pause traffic flow to pick it up in a crowded hallway during passing time. And don’t even mention the after-school parking lot crunch . . .

You accommodated construction. You initiated and embraced new programs like Bring Your Own Device, Wild Time, and new sports and clubs. You excelled academically, in activities, and community service, represented our community admirably regionally and nationally, and cared for one another above all. And after all of that, you are now because of the pandemic prevented by circumstance from coming together as a class to say – yes, we did this, together – “We are ONE10.”

But even if you cannot be physically together as a senior class with your peers and families in this unprecedented graduation year, that doesn’t mean you didn’t accomplish what you accomplished. It doesn’t mean you aren’t graduating and moving on to the next phase of your lives. It doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to be acknowledged, congratulated, and honored.

From 9/11 to the Great Recession to now – one thing is certain for the Class of 2020 – the times since you were born are constantly changing, and you all need to develop agility and resilience. You need to question authority, but do your homework, and ruthlessly vet your sources to make sure you are making your own decisions based on the best, most credible and timely information. Let’s be honest – many adults currently are not fulfilling some crucial obligations to the next generation. So - it might just come down to you. Are you up to the challenge? I think you are, because I have known a lot you personally, some since as far back as preschool - and I believe in you.

You are unique as a class in regard to your experiences. My hope is that will also make you unique in your character and propel you forward to achieve whatever goals you have set for yourselves – personally, professionally, and collectively. You as a class have been asked to “make do” more than any other class in recent memory. I know you – I love you – I hope and pray for you, Waconia High School Class of 2020. I know that you will ascend beyond “making do” to “making history.” Go forth together and make it so.

Cathy Thom is a member of the ISD 100 school board and a parent of a 2020 graduate.

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