Gazette editorial: When the chips were down, the Class of 2020 — and many others — came through

Gazette editorial: When the chips were down, the Class of 2020 — and many others — came through

Billings West graduation

Billings West graduates sit spaced apart during the Billings West graduation ceremony at First Interstate Arena in Billings on Sunday, May 24, 2020.

Seniors from Billings Senior, Billings Skyview, Billings West and Billings Central Catholic high schools all managed to hold non-virtual graduation ceremonies over the weekend. As much as that would be taken for granted most years, this year it is in itself cause for celebration.

The three Billings public high schools' ceremonies, held one after the other at MetraPark arena, were certainly not "normal." Graduating seniors were each limited to two family members in attendance. The ceremonies were livestreamed, so that those not present could still witness the graduation.

Students were masked and separated by the requisite six feet. No, certainly not normal. But the hours-long event had the same magic that any graduation has — a heady mixture of hope and pride.

Everyone who worked incredibly hard to bring off the ceremonies under difficult conditions is to be commended.

“They really stepped up. They stepped everything up,” Melissa Otto said, of the organizers behind her son Grant Otto’s graduation from Billings Senior.

That includes Billings Public Schools and Billings Catholic Schools, Billings Clinic and the Unified Health Command, Metra staff and — perhaps most of all — the students themselves and their families.

They have already lost so much, the members of this Class of 2020. They lost prom. They lost spring sports. They lost all the usual activities that seniors get to enjoy. But they approached the task of having a safe — but real — graduation with grace and maturity.

 “It’s always something that you didn’t even question that you’d have or not,” said Skyview graduate Ella Kiedrowski. “It’s just ‘I will graduate, I’m a senior.’ There’s just no other thought. That was really shocking, difficult to cope with.”

But cope with it they did, in fine style.

The students showed the flexibility and adaptability of youth. They took the distancing, the masks, even the reduced attendance by their families, in stride and with smiles.

So many good signs here for Billings' recovery from this plague: MetraPark functioning beautifully; the health establishment excelling, as it has done throughout the crisis; school authorities going above and beyond for their students; and the community's youth, on the threshhold of a new life, showing the poise and perseverance the situation demands.

We have been confident for weeks that we will come through this crisis in very good shape — and, as this weekend shows, we are very nearly there.

Congratulations, Class(es) of 2020.


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