As a high school senior, it can feel as if graduation will never arrive.
No matter how much you may (or may not) have enjoyed school, you reach the point where you feel it’s time to get on with the rest of your life. You are eager for what is to come. You feel the world calling to you to get started. Is it college, work, the service, travel, moving to a different place, or something else? It is there – waiting for you.
COVID notwithstanding, this year is my 50th class reunion from St. Johnsbury Academy. We had 186 students in our graduating class. Of those, 26 have passed away. It is sad to look at their pictures. Some were fairly young and never had a chance to see what could have been. I hope they made the most of their lives and that they had a lot of great moments. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” –Anonymous.
So how does one plan for a non-reunion reunion? To begin with, we established a committee in February to explore the possibilities. We held meetings by using Zoom conference calls. At that time, wearing masks and social distancing was in place. The outlook was not good. The Academy decided not to plan any in-person events such as the annual banquet. This year it would have been held on Saturday night, June 5, and attended by many members of the classes who had five-year reunions as well as other guests. The Academy decided to hold virtual events which could be seen by people signing up and watching them through links on their computers.
At the beginning, our committee decided to try and arrange a virtual presentation specifically geared toward our class so that we could mark our important milestone. We would remember the 26 classmates who were no longer with us. Our committee came up with the idea for each classmate to write a short essay sharing some life events. Each essay would be accompanied by a current picture as well as the person’s high school picture from our yearbook. They would be presented in the form of a video, so that our class could use a link to see it on June 5. I can imagine a few groans out there among my classmates. Nothing like being asked to write an essay 50 years after your last one! Our class also started a Facebook page which is open only to our class. We can post pictures, news, and announcements.
With the assistance and patience of the Academy Alumni Office, classmates, and modern-day technology, we were able to put together links to these events that could be accessed by classmates wherever they live. What an amazing opportunity this provided us.
Even as we planned the virtual events, we wondered if maybe the COVID restrictions would be loosened enough so that we could plan small get-togethers. By April, we were thinking that there was a possibility and by early May, things were looking even better. The restrictions were changing weekly. Vaccines were available, and many people received both shots. So we started to tentatively plan on reunion gatherings at a few houses with any classmates who might be able to attend. On May 14, Gov. Scott announced, “Vermonters who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or adhere to social distancing guidelines.” All our hard work would make it possible to be ready with virtual and in-person events. We would continue to monitor the guidelines set by Governor Scott and the CDC.
As we look back over 50 years, we can see so many changes that have occurred in our world. We never had cell phones, but everyone has them now. Did people really go places and not be able to call home at a second’s notice? We now have personal computers. I remember learning to type on a manual typewriter. I am so much faster on my desktop computer or laptop. I learned shorthand in high school and used it in early jobs, but then the technology evolved into dictation systems and voice recognition. I remember distributing hard copies of memos to each person at work. That changed with e-mail, and the distribution of a document to a large number of people could be facilitated via computer. What about e-books? Well, I am not converted yet. I prefer to hold a book in my hands. So many things have changed – too many to list them all. We have the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, a preliminary exploration of Mars, the Internet, robotics, medical research, digital cameras, and self-driving cars to name a few. Do some research on the Internet sometime and look for things that have been invented in your lifetime. You will be amazed.
So as my class gathers, either virtually or in-person, during the first weekend in June, not only has the world changed, but we have, too. There will be so many things to talk about.
Life is a journey. Once long ago, my classmates and I were on a path together for four years. I can’t wait to hear where those paths led them.