After effectively being the only reporter in the office this week, I'm devoting some time to this week's post. I will say that this one is a little bit sobering and reality-affirming.
Yesterday, I was invited by Principal Jason Chew to watch and take some photos of North Putnam High School's commencement ceremony. However, this one was decidedly different from what would've been a normal graduation prior to COVID-19.
What stood out is that it was being recorded, and a drive-in viewing of the ceremony has been planned a week from now. This is North Putnam's effort to keep families safely distanced, while still being able to give its seniors a sense of accomplishment.
I get the feeling that this is all they want. The closures and restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus have disrupted other events which would define their individual experience, not least including Prom and competing in spring sports.
North Putnam taping its commencement, which should be a time to celebrate as a unit, is just one visible example of how schools have had to adapt to our "new normal." South Putnam High School will do something similar, and both Wabash College and DePauw University are planning to host virtual presentations next Sunday afternoon.
While I was returning to the office, it took seeing a classmate's Instagram Story for me to realize that yesterday also marked three years since I graduated from Wabash.
I still remember both the ceremony and the baccalaureate service like it was yesterday; I was sweating like a radiator because of how hot it was. I remember hugging fellow history major Wesley Brown goodbye, hoping I could see him soon. I also distinctly remember Devin Clark asking me following the ceremony, "Well, are you satisfied?"
May 2017 was a different time, without social distancing and fears of the unknown. It is one where a drive-in graduation or church service via Zoom may have seemed silly. The contrast between a current senior's moment and mine could not be more distinct.
It's all not so silly now. With and without technology, we should continue to find how we can get creative. Scribbling chalk messages outside grandma's house, or simply picking up the phone, mean a lot more. Our schools want to be just as constructive.
It hasn't been lost on me as to how the uncertainties have impacted our seniors in different ways. However, I hope the challenges and disappointments have given them more confidence in their successes, as well as in their resilience to continue forward.
I think that commencement this year is a unique COVID-19 story all its own. I'm confident that the class of 2020 would be able to tell it more completely than I can.