Starting Thursday and ending Sunday, the five public high schools in our area and Massanutten Technical Center all held their graduations, sending the next group of former high schoolers off into the world they choose.

For some, graduation took place outdoors at James Madison University’s Bridgeforth Stadium. For others, the rain forced them inside into the brand new Atlantic Union Bank Center.

For some, college is in their futures. For others, it’s the workforce. For a few more, maybe it’s the military.

What shouldn’t be lost here for all graduates are the circumstances under which they spent their senior year. They did it, and succeeded, through the COVID-19 pandemic that forced them to do a majority of their learning in unusual environments. Gone was the usual Monday through Friday, wake up and go to school routine. Instead, plenty did it from home, using online classrooms to earn those much-sought-after diplomas.

That wasn’t easy. Yet, if over those four days, they got to throw their caps into the air and celebrate, they did something special. They did something no generation in most of our lifetimes had to do.

What did they learn aside from the usual studies? They learned to persevere, and that lesson might be the best one they learned of them all.

Because now they know to expect the unexpected, which life is going to throw at them from all sides as they move on — no matter where, or what, they move on to.

We hear too often “Kids these days.” And those strung-together words are usually followed by a shake of the head and frown.

Moving forward, for the Class of 2021 for Harrisonburg High School, East Rockingham, Turner Ashby, Spotswood, Broadway, Massanutten Technical Center and all our private high schools, that should change.

“Kids those days,” we’ll say looking back at the past 12 months.

This time, we’ll nod and smile.

Congrats to all the graduates, you did it, despite all the speed bumps that sat in your path.

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