By Darren Lum
Before the COVID-19 pandemic every school year ended the same. Full of hope and belief in a new future with the summer break and opportunity for a new start.
Students crossed the stage to accept their handshake for a completed year or four for high school. They were indifferent. They were beaming with jubilance for the achievement, the impending break and hopeful for the future, with friends and family looking on proud. This year was a return to these kinds of scenes, which is a contrast to the past two years of alternate ceremonies aligned with what was permitted within the reality of living during a pandemic. Some outside. Some virtual. Few people looking on. Little cheering except for a smattering of applause, if enough support showed.
With vaccinations available and less COVID-19 case numbers than at the height of the pandemic, the health measures mandated by the province have been reduced, which has allowed in-person events such as the prom, graduation and award ceremonies. Valedictorians have spoken to audiences, comprising of peers, faculty, parents, siblings, cousins and grandparents. They have noted the coming of age stories, but they are mindful of how global events have shaped our psyches in ways we won’t know for years to come.
That will have to wait. Because life is just beginning for Grade 8s graduating to high school, or students transitioning to middle school, or how high school students will be anticipating apprenticeships, trade schools, colleges and universities. This time it will be with far less uncertainty, as Canadian universities are transitioning to in-person classes and the related experiences that go with what use to be – before the world was gripped by the pandemic – typical of post-secondary education life, whether it’s the large classes where everyone is a number in a sea of faces or the freedom of being away from home for the first time.
It’s a positive time of hope. Hope for a future in a post-pandemic world.
Life is also matching this trajectory, which could be aptly summed up with the idiom: “Hope springs eternal.” The sun is shining and the weather requires nothing but what you’re wearing in your home, which brings with it the associated freedom that Ontarians know after an inconsistent spring season that feels like an extension of winter. The summer offers opportunities for outdoor experiences and the embrace of life.
With Highlands’ events – many Canada Day parties – events returning, the public is socializing more and more and people are engaging once again. It’s less of a return than it is a new beginning where we can see people’s faces. See their smiles. The crinkle of a nose. The gleam of teeth. It’s a welcomed sight.
This isn’t to say COVID-19 is gone. Two people in Haliburton County died recently, if we believe it’s over. It’s not for those who have felt this loss.
So, back to the students. In literature, children are symbolic of what can be. What potential there is for the world. Let’s remember this and keep to a path where we are supportive and listen to their needs. They may need more support than past graduates with what has happened. And, then, maybe not. They can be far more resilient than we know. They have endured and so will we.