COLUMN: This year’s graduates will get us back on track

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

After reading through several graduation stories this week following in-person graduations for all seven schools in the Shelby County School system it hit me; our future is in good hands.

From the smallest of those seven in Vincent to the largest of Oak Mountain, we watched as people of all races put the fear of COVID-19 aside to share the stage one last time as a joint group—the Class of 2020.

It didn’t matter their race, it didn’t matter their background and it didn’t matter their political views. Each graduate stepped onto their school’s football field under the lights together in celebration proud of one another for graduating high school and preparing for the next step in chasing their dreams.

This year’s graduating class has faced one of the most tumultuous times in our country’s history after having their senior school years cut two months short due to COVID-19 and then graduating amid a country in turmoil due to the death of George Floyd.

But seeing how adults are currently handling what is happening across the country through both of those serious issues with argument, the class of 2020 has gone through this difficult time with poise.

Entering a world of uncertainty right now after already losing close to three months of normality, they’re unsure if they’ll be able to attend college in person in the fall or start a job with the unemployment rate at one of its highest points in history.

Yet, they still aren’t scared and know they’ll continue to make history moving forward.

Almost every graduation held saw speeches from students, administrators and city officials talking about the hardships this class in particular has overcome and how much more prepared for life they feel now.

While education has played the largest role in preparing them for the next step in chasing whatever it is they would like to do, the real life experience of seeing the hardships of the world around them is something that will prepare this year’s graduates more than most before them.

Perhaps the most vulnerable in displaying the hope for the future was Calera salutatorian Bailee Jackson, who almost committed suicide and was diagnosed with depressive disorder.

“None of us have any idea what the future holds for us. There are people who care for you and just don’t show it,” she said. “Make the world better by doing what you know is right.”

It’s so simple, but those few words of doing what you know is right should leave a lasting impact on each of us because that’s what will make a difference.

Seeing Jackson’s vulnerability was just a glimpse into speeches from graduates at every school sharing messages of how this year’s class has overcome many obstacles to get where they are.

Using unity to make it through shows they will be ready for the most difficult road blocks that try to get in their way, showing they are ready to be leaders in a bright future.