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Shelter Island Reporter editorial: Recognizing our leaders

The Shelter Island commencement ceremonies this week for the High School Class of 2020 will be historic, which is fitting, since the graduates will always be remembered as a class that witnessed a monumental shift in American history.

Young people, still in their teens, don’t often recognize those tectonic historical plates moving, but have to see the wisdom that says life can only be understood looking backward, although it must be lived forward. Not this class, which understands what has happened and is happening.

Every student has been touched by the COVID-19 coronavirus, when life was turned upside down overnight by a deadly virus, and with the introduction of masks and social distancing, culminating in the school building being closed along with isolation at home. They also know of the financial pain that has struck their and/or their classmates’ families.

Added to that, millions of Americans marching for social justice this spring was unavoidable. An example of this group of young Islanders’ awareness of history turning a page before their eyes, was a group of seniors organizing a protest rally never seen in the Island’s long history, where nearly 1,000 people packed the Center calling for a change.

The young organizers are true leaders, passionate but practical, producing a peaceful and a never-to-be-forgotten event.

All of Shelter Island sends good wishes and hopes that each member of the Class of 2020 will achieve his or her dreams, and have lives of fulfillment and happiness on the paths they choose.

Proud parents, siblings, other relatives and friends will be on hand to applaud the many achievements of the graduates, who will leave the ceremony joyful but with bittersweet emotions, dwelling on the loss of the last several months and knowing that many will leave the community that has made their educational experiences so rich.

Thanks to the Shelter Island School staff, they have had a unique time here, finding not just one champion, but many, to cheer them on, helping them surmount rough hurdles to bring them successfully through to graduation.

Recognizing there are limits to such a small district, administrators, teachers and Board of Education members have approved off-Island experiences to expose them to the wider world.

The Shelter Island Educational Foundation has stepped up to fund many of these excursions. Without their support, such trips would not have been possible for a small district to afford.

The community they are leaving behind will be monitoring their progress, and will continue to applaud their successes and lend a helping hand if they encounter bumps in the road.

We wish the Class of 2020 bon voyage, good fortune and the wisdom to never forget where they came from. We also thank all of those who have had a role in preparing these young people for what we believe will be bright, rewarding futures.

We’ll never forget this class, and will watch them as they go forward, as we do all leaders who have inspired us.