As the graduation season gets under way, we wish a hearty congratulations to the Class of 2020, which has overcome formidable challenges that we fear are not over yet.
Most Virgin Islands students finishing high school this season spent two years after Hurricane Irma attending class in temporary facilities under a shift system. Then their senior year came to an abrupt halt when the pandemic hit and they were sent home for the end of their final semester. Students at H. Lavity Community College experienced similar challenges.
It is most unfortunate that students have been forced to endure so much at such a young age, and the effects of the related trauma doubtlessly will linger. On the other hand, we don’t doubt that they learned valuable life lessons that may help compensate for missed classroom time.
Indeed, we suspect the members of the Class of 2020 are better prepared than their counterparts abroad for the uncertain future faced by the entire world in the Covid-19 age.
But the road ahead will be arduous.
These days, few graduates have it easy even in the best of times. The current crop are facing shocking unemployment rates after the pandemic devastated large swathes of the economy here and abroad.
Many graduates who wish to enter the workforce will be unable to find a job. Others who wish to continue on to higher education may find their plans scuttled for now as well, since Covid-19 has closed borders and universities across much of the world.
Nevertheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The pandemic will not last forever, and the good news is that it has changed the world in a way that will present opportunities for young people.
Youths who grew up with the internet at their fingertips are well-positioned to get a foot in the door in a new economy that suddenly is relying far more heavily on digital technology for day-to-day business.
They will be even better positioned if they use their time wisely now. Even if they find themselves at loose ends in the coming months, opportunities abound.
Instead of lounging around, for instance, they might enroll in online education. Computer programming bootcamps, culinary classes, and college preparatory courses are just a few of the readily available options that in many cases are available free of charge.
There are also plenty of options to boost practical expertise. Cooking and hospitality skills, for instance, can easily be practised at home, and construction and boat work has continued even during the pandemic.
Once more jobs become available, employers surely will be impressed by candidates who have made the most of the pandemic.
Moreover, even now Virgin Islanders still have the usual opportunities, which include free education at HLSCC, scholarships to study abroad, various internships and first preference for local jobs.
In the current climate, taking full advantage of available opportunities often will require extra hustle. But given what this year’s graduates have endured in recent years, we have no doubt that they are up to the task.
We wish them all the luck in the world.