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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Graduating class earns the badge of resilience

We’ve published a fat issue of the Lightning this week, printed on heavier and brighter paper, and we’ve devoted most of it to the Class of 2020.

In a partnership with Henderson County public schools, we’re publishing a 40-page special section that celebrates the Class of 2020. On the front page and inside are photos of the six valedictorians. Correspondents Elise Trexler, a senior at West Henderson and the North Carolina high school student journalist of the year, and Hendersonville High School junior Gracie Milner conducted Q&As with the top students.
A few weeks ago, when we spoke with schools Superintendent Bo Caldwell and Associate Superintendent John Bryant about their plans for Friday’s drive-up graduation ceremony, both expressed how deeply hurt they are for the seniors, who missed so many traditions in the past 12 weeks.
“I’ve talked to parents and I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the words ‘disappointed’ or ‘heartbroken’ over and over,” Caldwell told us. “We’re there with them.”
In his message to the graduates, on Page 2 of the special section, Caldwell laments the hardship that so abruptly and thoroughly disrupted their senior year.
“As a father of two Henderson County public school graduates, a former teacher and former principal, I am disappointed and saddened at the painful situation this caused for our graduates and their families,” he said. “But I’m also incredibly hopeful. … You are heading into the next chapters of your lives with a wisdom and tenacity that are earned through hardship, which will serve you in whatever you do as lifelong learners and leaders among your peers in college, the workforce, or armed services.”
While it’s hard to see past the disappointment and to appreciate the historic moment we’re in, in time the experience may be life-shaping in a positive way.
“There so much we can’t control, there’s so much we wish we could change,” Bryant told us in the interview about graduation, “but we certainly have a responsibility to celebrate and honor them and really hold them up in a way that no other class has been celebrated, because they will have a story to tell that no other class can tell.”
The story that only the class of 2020 can tell is one in which they’re both the victim and the hero. Along with their school system administrators and their teachers, they pioneered a new form of learning. They confronted challenges and overcame them. They faced adversity and fought through it.
We say this about every graduating class but the class of 2020 has an earned resilience that makes it even truer than usual: We can’t wait to see what you do.