While this time of year always fills us with a sense of pride, to see all our members of the Class of 2021 receiving degrees and diplomas we recognize just how stupendous a feat they accomplished to get here.

Our high school and college seniors have had their day in the sun, robed and wearing mortarboards, waiting for their name to be called, then crossing the dais to receive that all important document that says they did it, they graduated.

“This is our first step. We have all just achieved a great new milestone in our lives, and let this diploma symbolize the hours of hard work and dedication each of us not only gave to this school and community but to the betterment of ourselves and knowledge gained over the course of the last four years,” said Kent County High School Valedictorian Marlee Berghaus in her speech in Trojan Stadium Friday, June 4.

We are so proud of all our graduates. They stared down a challenge in their last two years no student has faced in more than a century.

A pandemic saw them locked out schools. They went virtual virtual. Social distancing, distance learning, Zoom fatigue — all of it started the spring of their junior year and on through their time as seniors.

They lost out on opportunities they likely looked forward to for most of their time in school: sports, theater productions, concerts and recitals, art shows and major social events like homecomings and proms.

Still, they made the best of their time. Still, they put in the work. And over the last few weeks, they have celebrated with their families and friends an accomplishment everyone should be proud of.

And we celebrate with them.

“You have masked, and socially distanced, and isolated, and endlessly Zoomed from your childhood bedrooms while coming up with innovative ways to stay connected,” interim Washington College President Wayne Powell told graduates this year’s commencement. “The fact that you are gathered here together as a class, on your beloved campus that some of you haven’t visited in months, says a lot about your dedication to learning and your resilience in the face of adversity.”

Congratulations to the Class of 2021, the graduates of the coronavirus pandemic. Your perseverance and resilience is an inspiration.

In celebrating our industrious students, we also offer our congratulations and a whole-hearted thank you to all the parents, teachers, mentors, advisors and coaches.

While the students made the grades, it was your support, your guidance, your classes and rehearsals and practices that got them where they are today.

As they say, it takes a village — and the students here are lucky to have so many family and community members helping them and taking an active role in their lives.

And while graduation from high school and college is a major milestone in every student’s life, we believe that it does not mean the end of learning.

Education should be a lifelong pursuit, a journey on which we continue forward every day. Whether through graduate courses, a community art class or just reading a book before bed, there is always something new, something more to be learned, to be gained to help us, to guide us, to inspire us.

Again, we send our congratulations out to all those who marked a major milestone in their lives with graduation. We wish you all the best!

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