This is a season of fun celebrations. I attended one of the hundreds of high school graduation parties just today. It is one of those benchmark achievements by our teenagers that is an exciting time in their lives. They have finished 12 or more school years of work and effort and now can think about their next steps as they plan their career. It is also a transition time for families where parents are watching their children take another step of independence where their roles shift as well. The emotions can be conflicted yet the sense of hope is very high.
At Lakeside we held four different sponsored graduations. Our Upper Merion Vantage Academy, our Lakeside Girls Academy, our Souderton Vantage Academy and Lakeside School all held separate graduations that were the pinnacle of a very challenging year.
Lakeside graduations are exceptional to me because of the fact that our students are often referred to us because they have huge life obstacles to overcome. They are placed in a therapeutic community because they need much more than specialized education. They need an environment where they can continue their education while going through some of the difficulties that have kept them from success for many years. Some of them believe that they will never graduate from high school. Yet they can and often do overcome their obstacles.
There is also a unique sense of family in our graduations. We affirm each of our students individually. Some of them speak. Some of their family members also speak and there is a significant exhale to express the sentiment that “We made it!”
However, that success belongs to the entire complex of staff, students and families as they have all collaborated together to provide the support and guidance for students. There were hard moments. There were conflicts at times and sometimes the future looked bleak. Yet they overcome those adversities. In our graduations you can feel the warmth, the sense of journey, the humility, the relief and the gratefulness for all that has happened. It is a true expression of love for each other that spans so many incidences where the care of our staff for their students was prominent.
Unlike any other year, the harsh realities of COVID-19 made this year extremely unique. The virtual school, isolation, anxiety, depression and the restrictions that were enforced made the achievements of our students even more dynamic. They fought through so many emotions and disadvantages and yet were able to complete their high school journey, and complete their academics while dealing with their own issues and a global pandemic.
I specifically want to commend the students, their families and the staff of Lakeside who persevered through this past year. I celebrate the fact that, to our knowledge, we had no transfer of COVID-19 from any student in our school to another student. The precautions taken were successful and this is a tribute to our students and health and safety plans that were implemented by all of Lakeside in order to protect each other.
All in all, we have much to celebrate! I congratulate all of our Lakeside family for a job well done. Lives of our students have been impacted positively and they will have new opportunities to grow and develop a bright future because of their accomplishment this past year. What a great set of events to celebrate!