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To The Graduating Class of 2020

Less than a month ago, I wrote the draft for an article about COVID-19 and the precautions made in the short time since school closed on March 13. I had been updating it every couple of days, preparing it for publication in the school newspaper. However, I have decided not to publish it. There are many worldwide newspapers who are publishing updates on the pandemic and I am certainly not an expert. I do not need to remind the TFS community to wash their hands or physically distance–I have faith that they already are following the government’s self-isolation guidelines.

Instead, I want to reach out to my fellow Class of 2020 graduates.

When I first came to TFS, I knew nothing about the French language or the IB. My class at the Mississauga campus was fairly small, and it remained that way until our “graduation” in Grade 7. After many years of French, the PYP, the MYP, and friends I’d grown up with, it was finally time to move on to life’s next obstacle: the Toronto campus. I expect many of my non-Sauggie classmates would associate this moment with entering the Senior School after Grade 5.

In June of 2015, at my Mississauga campus graduation, I was worried about the next five years of my life. I was stepping away from a bubble of security I had built up over the last several years. The Toronto campus was something new, exciting, and, frankly, scary. Toronto was a city that I only visited to see family. The thought of commuting on a bus every day to an unknown city and being in a grade full of people I had never spoken to before was not comforting.

Admittedly, the Toronto campus–we called it “the Downtown campus”–surprised me, because I loved it. Every year was better than the last. Our grade bonded. We went on school trips, such as 2016’s France, 2017’s Ecuador, or 2018’s Peru. We learned to trust each other at Outward Bound–even though we lacked sled dogs in 2018. Together, in the Fall of 2018, the Class of 2020 began the IB program.

Last September, we got our red ties: the first of many TFS graduating class traditions. We were one step closer to our graduation. In November, we applied to universities. In February, we received our grad rings and took our grad photos. We also braved our Prep exams (and we shrugged off our procrastination–because our marks only really depended on our final ones, right?).

When we parted ways for our last March break, I updated my “how many days left?” document. There were only 25 school days remaining. I admit that I had been preparing for the end of this school year since it began–not because I wanted to leave, but because I wanted to cherish every moment I had before it was time to say goodbye.

In those remaining 25 days, we had many things to look forward to: Grad Skip Day, Prank Day, Grad Assembly, our last Coffeehouse, our last sports games. After our last school day, we still had IB Exams, the Grad Walk, the Red Tie lunch, Grad Dinner, Prom, and, finally, Graduation.

COVID-19 is affecting lives in many ways. Events are cancelled, streets are empty, and, worst of all, loved ones have passed away alone. By comparison, a few million disappointed teenagers around the world does not seem nearly as important. That being said, I don’t think we are selfish in mourning the loss of our last two months of high school.

On April 9, the Level 5s completed their last class. They clicked off their Google Meet session and, in an instant, high school was over–almost two months earlier than expected. Isolated in their homes, kilometres away from their friends, without even a red tie around their necks, the Class of 2020 had finished school.

We may go to university before we “officially” receive our high school diplomas. Our hard-earned IB grades will be ultimately determined through an algorithm. We may never be all together ever again. Despite all of this, we must remember that, all over the world, teenagers on the brink of adulthood are undergoing the same thing.

This is an experience that makes our year unique. Many of us are currently in the process of accepting universities. Soon, we will all level-up from “Class of 2020” to “Class of 2024” (or 2023, or 2025). At graduation in October, we will not experience the same trepidation that I did back in Grade 7 about where my path would next lead–by that point in time, we’ll already know.

Our graduation will be that much more special because it will be a representation of how far we’ve come since March. Our graduating class will come together after months of separation, and we will realize that, although we may have been physically divided, we are united in our shared experience.

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