Next Wednesday, June 9, the McNary High School Class of 2021 will accept their graduation diplomas at Volcanoes Stadium. Hundreds of our students have completed their primary education. Many will go onto higher education at the college of their choice, others will opt for service in the military or to directly enter the work force.

 What do we owe those who faced their final semesters in front of a computer screen at home, forgoing the extracurricular activities that complement their classroom studies? Those graduating are survivors—they, with the rest of society— weathered a life that was upturned. A hallmark of youth is resilicency. Our youth can take hit, shake it off and continue moving forward. We owe it to them to let them have their feelings, though. It is not just adults who have been touched by depession and loneliness over the past year. 

As safety protocols bring the pandemic under a semblence of control, we can all begin to think of what comes next. Graduates have a life ahead of them they can make their own. For many their next step is set. College life, like everything else, will be different for today's high school graduates, more so than in previous years. Different doesn't have to mean bad, it just means different. It is difficult to lament something that one has never experienced. The Class of 2021 will make their post-high school years different in their own way. We owe it to them to embrace their journey and help them fit into the world.

We owe it to the Class of 2021 to recognize what they have been through as young people. Once you've lived through a global pandemic as well as unrest and riots in our streets, anything else from here on will be easier.

Graduation ceremonies next week will be more of a celebration than usual for students and their families alike. From the depths of depair of coronavirus a year ago, hundreds of students will accept their diplomas with a sense of survival and accomplishment. The phrase "We did it!" will take on added poignancy. They sure did do it. They did it with distance learning. They did it without athletic or arts events. 

The Class of 2021 finished their education in a way no one ever thought could happen. Some may have stumbled along the way but school leadership wasn't going to leave anyone behind. The proof of that success comes next Wednesday at Volcanoes Stadium.

What do we owe the Class of 2021? Start with hearty congratulations and continue with love and support as they make their own world.

(Lyndon Zaitz is the publisher of the Keizertimes.)