Harwood Union Unified seniors deserve a graduation ceremony. We all agree the pandemic has created issues concerning this traditional graduation event. However, one’s journey should never end with a stumble.

This class is unique. They have faced adversity several times. They were born only a year or two after the tragedy of 9/11. They were in middle school when our community suffered the loss of five students in a horrific automobile crash. This year, COVID-19 has forced them to cancel the prom, spring sports season and final musical and theatrical performances. Though there is no education like adversity, it is one’s reaction to adversity, and not the adversity itself that determines how one’s life story will develop.

As a teacher and coach for 41 years, my students and student-athletes have suffered major setbacks. In my science classes, when students were identifying bacteriological unknowns, at times they became frustrated and felt trapped. I encouraged them to think differently, try something new, or research alternatives. In track and field, athletes would get injured or sick before an important meet. Their teammates made sacrifices to fill the gap. Sprinters became hurdlers, jumpers became vaulters, and javelin throwers became shot putters. This esprit de corps helped Harwood win many state titles.

“A wounded deer leaps the highest.”

For the Class of 2020 graduation, we need to think differently and try something new.

As a community, let’s join together in spirit and help celebrate this very special class.

I urge Harwood administration to create and develop a unique ceremony. For ideas, look to the internet. For example, one that caught the interest of many in the HUUSD was the proposed graduation ceremony for seniors at Kennett High School in North Conway, New Hampshire, (also a ski town). Graduates will receive their diplomas after a chair lift ride to the summit of Cranmore Mountain. There are those who may say the fear of litigation would never allow something like this at Harwood.

This fear has abruptly halted many original ideas. Our community abounds with risk-takers, innovators and problem solvers. Let’s show this class that we can overcome obstacles together.

Imagine if you can: Seniors riding a lift, (no social distancing necessary on the single chair at Mad River Glen) to the summit of General Stark or on their way to the summit of Lincoln Peak at Sugarbush. Family, friends and community members will shout encouragement from the beautiful trails below. At the summit, socially distanced faculty wearing black and gold face masks embroidered with 2020 would greet the graduates. The Class of 2020 would receive their diplomas from an artistically crafted podium designed by local engineers and artists. Their photo would be taken with the beautiful Mad River Valley below.

By now, we all know the COVID-19 pandemic crisis originated in China. When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters. One character represents danger and the other represents opportunity.

Let’s make the best of an opportunity to give our seniors the most unique, creative graduation ceremony ever.

John Kerrigan was a longtime coach at Harwood Union.

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