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Virginia high school seniors urged to take senator’s graduation speaker challenge

Posted at 6:08 PM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 08:55:57-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Virginia Senator is challenging high school graduates across the state to speak up and record a graduation speech to share with their classmates and community.

The explosion of Spring and warm weather in Central Virginia typically means it’s time for the celebratory rituals that mark important passages: weddings, proms, and especially graduations.

But this May is anything but typical. The global coronavirus pandemic means thousands of Virginia seniors won’t be able to walk across stage to honor their achievements and voice their hopes for the future.

"This was our last year to really shine and be recognized for our hard work, these final moments of our childhood have been building up for about 12 years,” said Lily Manyara, a senior at Henrico High School.

Eudora Nordt, a senior at Trinity Episcopal School, agrees. "It’s definitely been an adjustment. You know I had big plans for my senior year. I'm sure all seniors did."

Regardless of individual circumstances, its clear that Graduation 2020 is not going to look like any other graduation.

“A graduation is a big deal,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D, VA). "It’s a big deal for the students for the teachers that have watched their students mature and grow. And it’s big for the family, too."

Millions of seniors across the country are realizing exactly what they’ve lost, right now.

"It is a major disappointment,” said Lily. “We won't have that traditional experience that's often associated with coming into adulthood."

"I was really looking forward to prom, I was really looking forward to senior day for spring athletes,” said Eudora. “And I was really looking forward to graduation.'

Since there won't be a celebration of that new beginning, at least not in the customary way, a Virginia senator wants to give every graduate the chance to speak up, to address their classmates and the world.

"A lot of our graduates are not going to have the traditional experience, it might be postponed, it might be online,” said Kaine. "It's not going to be what they were planning for, so I just decided to announce something that I call the 'Everybody's the Graduation Speaker.' I've encouraged any member of the Virginia class of 2020 to tape a graduation speech of what they would want to tell their classmates."

Kaine says seniors can send their speech up to ten minutes long to gradspeech@kaine.senate.gov and he will feature them on his social media sites.

At least two local graduates have some ideas on what they would tell their socially distant peers.

"I think that I would tell my classmates that I'm really proud of them for continuing to work hard considering the circumstances,” said Eudora. "And for keeping their head up during a time like this of such uncertainty I think that takes a lot of strength and resilience. And I think that we are all going to come out stronger by the end of this month stronger than we were before. And we're going to have learned a lot of valuable lessons that we can use for the rest of our lives."

"Definitely, you know, everyone has a certain traumatic time in their life,” said Lily. "For example. In 2001, we had 911, and I feel that that really shaped the millennials. And so I feel like this is our shaping time now. This is our time to prove that were stronger than we seem."

The effort is sure to leave a joyous legacy for many high school seniors who will know their voices are being heard.