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By Chris Carter

On June 3, I had the honor of awarding high school diplomas to the students in the Class of 2021—in person and in front of their loved ones.

I was particularly thankful to hold a traditional graduation ceremony for this group of teens who spent the past 15 months forgoing many of the traditional rites of passage. As we move into the post-COVID era, preparing for the graduation allowed me time to reflect on the challenges our young people have faced and how impressed I have been with their grit and fortitude.

Adolescence is a period in which young people are embarking on the important developmental phase of moving beyond their family of origin, forming relationships with other young people, and beginning to explore education and careers that will support their independence. The Class of 2021 has embarked on this phase in a way unlike any previous generation.

Despite the challenges of distance learning, the loss of social connections, the adjustment to a hybrid class schedule and waiting for a year for sports to resume, the Class of 2021 showed up, they came together, strong as Tritons, and will take all that they have learned with them as they embark on new endeavors.

In a year filled with uncertainty, it was nice to see hope on the faces of the graduating class as they leave the worst of the pandemic behind them and focus on their future.

Many of our graduates let me know that they will face this next part of their lives with increased patience, kindness, and resilience. I have witnessed a greater sense of community and more openness to innovation, as well as creative solutions to novel situations.

Their words and my observations give me a sense of optimism for how our community will come back stronger than ever.

I look forward to August, when we will welcome all students back to campus and a resumption of a new normal for the high school experience.

We will start the school year with newly acquired skills that will enhance both our teaching and our learning. Students will have access to technology and programs that will enable them to make deep connections to the content and resources our teachers present. 

Many of our young people will need extra support to heal from the mental and physical trauma of COVID, and I encourage you to seek support from our school counselors and from the Wellness & Prevention Center.

Please be patient with your student if they will be transitioning back to in-person school, and if they need to make up classes, our teachers and staff are collaborating with students to help them catch up.

Our teachers and staff are excited to start the new school year, and I am confident that we will be stronger and more equipped than ever before.

In the end, one thing that this pandemic taught us is that there is no real replacement for in-person learning and the benefits of working together as a school community to support our families. 

For all young people and their families, I hope that this summer offers them a chance to recover and safely return to a sense of normalcy. Mental health professionals recommend we give ourselves time and space to heal from the isolation and loss of this mass trauma event.

We appreciate all of the hard work our staff, teachers, and students have put in this year and wish everyone a safe and refreshing summer.

Chris Carter is the advisor to the Wellness & Prevention Center’s Board of Directors and is principal of San Clemente High School.

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