Here’s To Commencement — A New Beginning

Our public school and homeschool community is filled with people who have worked hard during COVID.

This Saturday will mark a huge milestone for local teenagers who are graduating from high school or homeschool after a year like none other.

Only in the last few weeks has anything approached “normal” for these young people — and by the way, they really shouldn’t be called “kids” ever again, because they’ve shown our community their grit, flexibility and maturity time and again throughout the pandemic.

It’s common and appropriate to bemoan the missed milestones this generation has experienced. These seniors in particular had to endure a closure that spanned a good portion of their junior years as well as their senior years.

But because of the challenges they have faced, they’ve also gained a perspective beyond their years. They will forever be marked by what happened to them in the year of their graduation — but here is what we know they’ve learned, and taught us too.

They’ve learned that their individual actions can have huge, unintended consequences that can impact an entire community, and how to protect themselves, their peers and their families from harm.

They’ve learned to imagine their futures in new ways.

They’ve learned how to tell others what they need in terms of support.

They’ve learned to put their own hardships in perspective with the greater tragedies, harms and inequities of this pandemic.

And hopefully, we adults have also learned to think outside the box when we consider what teenagers can and can’t do.

One of the highlights of the pandemic era, here at The Beachcomber — and yes, there were highlights — was our partnership with youth journalists of Vashon High School’s The Riptide. We particularly wish these students a joyous graduation, and thank them for their invaluable contributions to our community.

We salute everyone who made this difficult year more bearable and at times even enjoyable for youth — including Sally Adam and Paul Peretti, retiring VISD staff members, profiled in this issue, who worked especially closely with students and family members.

Over the years, Adam became a deeply trusted and respected ally to Vashon’s Latino community through her work at VISD’s ECAEP preschool and as a family liaison. Filling her shoes won’t be easy.

Peretti had one of the toughest of all jobs during the pandemic — making sure that some of VHS’s most vulnerable students’ needs were met.

More profiles of retiring staff and teachers will continue in the coming weeks, and make no mistake about it — this group of people, which includes School Nurse Sarah Day, are our community’s heroes.

And yet, our public school and homeschool community is filled with people who have worked long hours to pivot, adjust, sacrifice and reinvent the way that youth engage in education and life during COVID.

Credit must also, always, be given to VashonBePrepared, its Emergency Operations Center and Medical Reserve Corps, along with Vashon Pharmacy and Sea Mar Health Care Vashon — all of which worked to make it possible for both school staff and students to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

These precious doses helped as much as anything to get students’ lives back to normal, and the speed with which they were delivered was a huge accomplishment.

So here’s to a happy graduation, and a brighter, safer future for all the grads. Commencement, after all, doesn’t mean that something is ending. It means something new is just starting.

We believe these young adults are beyond ready to step into a brave and cautious new world, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.