The year 2020, with the digits paralleling perfect vision and foresight of the future, marked what many anticipated to be their quintessential year. There was much hope and expectancy for a year ringing in the Olympics, a leap year, an election year, and the year that I would graduate high school.
Nearly 13 years ago, I began my education at Waiakea Elementary School and made my way to Waiakea High School, the alma mater of both of my parents. Everything in my life was a part of this legacy, leading up to the commencement ceremony to be held this May.
However, 2020 has quickly become defined as the year of the pandemic. In four months, there have been over 859,338 cases of the novel coronavirus disease globally, and the number is still exponentially growing.
Amid school closures, the Hawaii Department of Education is now contemplating modifications to graduation requirements and long-awaited commencement ceremonies, the culmination of time spent together and students’ educational accomplishments thus far.
It’s overwhelmingly sad to think that this great journey may not end the way that we had anticipated. The mere prospect of cancelled graduation ceremonies is heartbreaking.
Day in and day out, students have spent countless hours working on academic, athletic and personal pursuits. Senior projects, final sports events and academic competitions are culminating events that have been suddenly stripped. Students deserve due recognition for pouring their hearts and souls into these past four years. These students may have to forgo local traditions like the showering of lei, graduation parties, and celebratory gatherings held among friends and families that signify support and aloha.
At this time, though, what’s even bigger than each of us having our moment of pride is protecting the health and safety of our communities. As Helen Keller once said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
As seniors, we are on the cusp of adulthood; the reality and responsibilities of the “real world” are upon us. It may seem unfair, but as capable individuals, I believe we are facing a true test of leadership. Instead of dwelling on what we have lost, we must channel our grief into innovation, seeking the best outcome for all of humanity.
Our futures involve facing issues that are on the horizon. Immediate issues like the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic will have to be addressed and navigated. Furthermore, complex issues such as climate change, artificial intelligence, terrorism, overpopulation and resource depletion are unarguably before us.
If we begin with facing the issue of our commencement ceremonies, we can effectively demonstrate resilience by working together. Putting our heads together, considering the technological capabilities that we possess, and accepting alternative solutions are all skills that we have refined in the past few weeks.
COVID-19 has provided us with the opportunity to think beyond our individual selves and forced us to modify our behaviors. The best proven way to fight against this virus, to take part in the greater good, recognizes the impact that each and every one of us has in either spreading or stopping it.
This communal mindset will put us at an advantage as we commence with facing the issues of our future. Through these trying times and the inevitable ones in the future, the only way through it is together.