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The Gannett Kansas All-State Academic Team has always honored achievement. Graduating high school seniors have navigated classes, extracurriculars and their own shifting circumstances with aplomb, and they’re recognized in the pages of the newspapers and the laudatory articles online.


But this year, so much has changed. While these seniors have no doubt accomplished as much as their predecessors, they are put in the shockingly difficult position of finishing out their high school careers on their own, in social isolation.


What does it mean to graduate in circumstances like this? What does it mean to have the entire context of graduating high school ripped away — not out of malice or for punishment, but simply to minimize harm? What does it mean to have the last weeks of instruction, the final bevy of exams, replaced by Zoom calls and online forms?


We don’t know. We can’t know. This has simply never happened before in the memories of most of us, and these seniors will have stories to tell their own children one day.


But if the past two months have been uncertain, what about the next year? Colleges, where presumably many of these students plan to head in the fall, are still deciding how (or whether) to hold in-person classes. If you had a freshman entering college, would you feel like the upcoming school year was an ideal one to attend? Or would you urge them to wait?


Yet the other options seem impossible, too. Think about the advice we offer high school graduates. We tell them to work a summer job. What jobs are available now? Should we send them to work in grocery stores? Traveling to other countries is most certainly out.


So to the All-State Academic Team, we offer this modest advice in a less-than-ideal time. Turn your brainpower to the world in front of you. Figure out how best to interact with those you care for while remaining safe. Continue learning, even if you can’t stroll down a foliage-bedecked campus this fall. Take that internship or summer job, even if it requires working remotely in some way that even your bosses haven’t figured out yet.


The truth of it is, graduating seniors, that we need you right now. We need clear thinking and rational decisions. We need all the resources of this great country coming together to create a safer, healthier future.


You may not have chosen the time, but this time has chosen you.