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Honoring 2021 grads with special web videos

High school graduations are something we dream about for most of our K-12 years. It’s a journey that seems to take an entire lifetime, and in a way, it does.

From roughly ages 5 to 18, we wake up each morning and head to school. We meet teachers, school staffers and fellow students who fundamentally shape us and make us who we are, as children, as teenagers and finally, as adults.

Simply put, the influence and importance of the people we meet and the relationships we form in our school years cannot be understated. And for many of us, there’s a friend, family member, teacher or school employee who made a tremendous difference in our lives and educations.

Maybe there was a teacher who changed your life by helping you find your passion in art, science, music, literature, math or social studies. Maybe there was a friend who stuck by you, no matter what. Maybe there was a school employee who offered a listening ear when you needed it most. Maybe there was a family member who pushed you to do your very best, even when the going got tough.

Overall, the people who help us make it to graduation are as varied as we are in their roles, personality and gifts. But almost everyone has someone they’d like to thank for helping them make it to graduation.

And that’s why The Mining Journal embarked on a brand-new project to interview and film members of the Class of 2021 and find out who or what they are grateful for at the end of their high school journey.

These interviews have been compiled into ten videos, one for each of the ten participating schools’ graduating class. And we can learn much about the Class of 2021 from these video messages.

Some messages are heartwarming. Some are tongue-in-cheek. Some are inspiring. Some are humorous. Some are honest reflections on a school year like no other. Some speak to the immense beauty — and the immense challenges — of growing up.

Some students thank friends or family members. Others say they are grateful for teachers and school employees. Some thank pets, some thank fictional characters, some thank their communities, some thank themselves for getting through such a difficult year and making it to graduation.

Some students prepared statements, others simply spoke from their hearts in the moment.

Each and every student is unique, as are their messages. But what unites these students and their voices is the resilience, strength and hope reflected in each and every one of them.

These videos are, above all, honest reflections of these students and the time they live in.

The videos take a naturalistic approach to documenting the students’ messages, meaning that the goal was to realistically portray students as they were on a given day at school — rather than in a studio — with much of the filming completed in the classrooms, libraries and hallways of their schools, largely with natural light and sound.

Viewers might also notice that some students are masked, while others are not. This decision was left solely to the discretion of each school’s administration, and students were always granted the option to leave their mask on during filming, which was done at a safe distance — many of these videos are cropped to make it appear that students were filmed at a closer range — by a masked and fully vaccinated Journal staffer.

The goal of this naturalistic approach was to paint a larger and more realistic picture of the high school experience that serves to immerse the viewer in the world of these students.

This is because it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be 17 or 18. We ask you, as you view these videos, to remember how it felt to be that age, to stand right at the cusp of adulthood, to walk the tightrope between youth and maturity.

We also ask you to remember that the Class of 2021’s high school experience has been like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing shutdowns grabbed hold of the world in the springtime of their junior year, just as they may have been preparing to get their driver’s license, attend prom, or participate in a major athletic competition.

Many have experienced several shifts between in-person learning, remote learning and even hybrid virtual/in-person models.

Many of these students may have missed — or experienced significantly altered — major milestones and rites of passage.

While the final years of high school are difficult under any circumstance, the Class of 2021 has endured unparalleled challenges that have virtually no comparison. But these students have handled an unprecedented situation with strength, grace and, critically, a sense of humor and camaraderie.

Meeting hundreds of members from our local Class of 2021 gives us great hope for the future, as these young people are not only bright and talented, but they are kind, conscientious and resilient. They have overcome challenges many adults could never imagine and they still retain their sense of humor and hope. This is no simple task. But these traits are the ingredients for a happy and successful adulthood.

The Class of 2021 is certain to thrive as they cross the boundary into adulthood and make our community — and our world — a better place.

We are so proud of these graduates and all the people who helped them get to where they are today.

From all of us here at the Journal, congratulations to the Class of 2021. We are grateful for you.

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