If the two-year pandemic has had a silver lining, it was providing everyone, but perhaps especially students, the chance to re-evaluate their values, priorities and perspectives.
Such was the view of Yorktown High School Class of 2022 president Zachary Levin, who at the school’s June 16 commencement told fellow students that the pandemic and its fallout resulted in “causing us to grow stronger and better understand the world.”
Students received their diplomas at D.A.R. Constitution Hall, the traditional venue for Arlington Public Schools’ graduation ceremonies but one that had been off-limits in 2020 and 2021 due to health conditions.
It was the Class of 2022, which saw the last few months of its sophomore and much of its junior year converted into “virtual” learning and limited engagement with classmates, that helped to lead the school’s resurgence, principal Kevin Clark said.
“You helped us navigate our return, you assumed leadership,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud.”
Clark commiserated that students lost so much of their high-school experience, but noted that students continued to explore their passions and learned some valuable life lessons along the way.
“Give thanks for what is important in life. Thank the people in your lives who helped you reach this milestone,” he said.
Among student speakers was Jessica Segura Jimenez, who told classmates that she entered ninth grade shy and nervous, but through programs such as Best Buddies and Special Olympics, “I made lots of new friends and had so much fun.”
“I am happy and confident,” said Segura Jimenez, who is heading to Arlington Public Schools’ Program for Employment Preparedness (PEP) program for additional training and support.
Representing the school’s valedictorians, Phoebe Scarborough said the pandemic had impacted her values and preconceived notions, hopefully making her a better person along the way.
“Lead with compassion,” the Virginia Tech-bound senior said. “Standing up for what’s right is more important than anything else. We learn by listening, truly listening, with an open mind and heart.”
Scarborough told her classmates to remember that the broader arena of life they all were about to enter was a two-way street.
“You have so much to give to the world, but the world has much to give to you,” she noted.