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An unusual new beginning

If it’s true what they say that every end is a new beginning, then the seniors of Suffolk’s high schools have had an unusual new beginning this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic canceled their last three months of going to school in person and brought lots of challenges and heartache at what might have been. But rather than remember this time as one of disappointment and missed opportunities, we hope the class of 2020 instead finds resilience, strength and pride in their accomplishments in the midst of extraordinary circumstances.

King’s Fork, Lakeland and Nansemond River high schools celebrated their seniors last week in a socially distanced fashion, first with virtual graduation ceremonies on the day their actual graduation would have taken place. Then, on Monday and Tuesday, the seniors got to return to each school one last time, riding in cars decked out to the max, celebrating their graduations in style.

The excitement and joy in the air were just as contagious as a regular graduation, without the contagion of the virus being much of a concern due to the outside venue.

The graduates we talked to had a great attitude about everything that has happened.

“I actually like this,” said Chainey Lippard, a graduate of King’s Fork High School who plans to study cosmetology. “I think this is a better idea than traditional graduation. I feel like it was more fun and everyone has a better time.”

“It’s heartbreaking, because I’m the first in my family to actually get this far,” said Shiasia Wiggins, a Lakeland graduate who already has her associate degree and plans to attend Virginia Commonwealth University to study accounting. “It took away some of the memories I would have had that I could look back on and tell my family in the future. But I made the best out of it, and we’re celebrating the best way we can.”

Over at Nansemond River High School, graduate Eddie Velez, who plans to go to Old Dominion University for video game design and development, said “I think I liked this maybe more than I would have an actual graduation. … This is short and to the point.”

With a great outlook like this, we know Suffolk’s class of 2020 will go far in life. Congratulations to all of the graduates. It may not have looked like you thought it would, but you made it!