School is out, summer is here, and all God's children said, "Amen."
If you are a parent, a teacher, a principal, a student or someone else who has had to navigate the choppy waters of education during the pandemic, then you deserve an award. Not a virtual award. A big, shiny trophy like they give out to teams who win championships.
Yes, this is a participation trophy. If you have a shred of sanity left after all that has gone on since schools shut down unexpectedly in March 2020, then you deserve something more than a pat on the back.
I don't know of anyone who has enjoyed this year. What I have heard most often from kids and adults in the past few weeks is "Hopefully next year will be better."
I told my son from the very beginning of the year that our goal was to survive, and one week at a time that's what we did.
I think he started asking how many weeks we had to go sometime around Thanksgiving.
I asked more of him this year than was ever asked of me at that age. After a hellacious summer in which he lost two grandparents and didn't get to have any kind of fun, he started a new school in the fall — except he didn't because it was all virtual.
He did school at our kitchen table or on my couch at work.
We kept him on the virtual track until late September, right before the schools went to a four-day-a-week schedule. On his first day of traditional school, I dropped him off in front of a building he had only been in once. He had no idea how to find the office, the restrooms or even his own classroom.
Bankhead Middle Principal Amber Freeman went above and beyond when I emailed her about the process for sending him back to school and offered to walk him to his classroom that first day.
I don't even want to talk about the COVID protocols except to say that they were necessary but also a pain in the butt. I spent a small fortune in masks because he kept chewing holes in his (because of course that's what kids are going to do when they get bored) and one time we were almost late to school because we got all the way to the front door before he shouted, "I forgot my mask!"
We had a few bumps in the road, but he came out on top. Not only did he end up with an A average, but he also let me push him outside his comfort zone and signed up for an extracurricular activity for next year.
As I sat in the bleachers for awards day this week, I actually sighed with relief that we had gotten through the year.
At his awards day, students are recognized not only for academic achievements but also for showing traits such as perseverance and kindness. Though there seemed to be some overlap, I'm sure there were a few kids whose names did not appear on an honor roll this year but did receive one of the character awards.
So often we brag on the kids who did well in academics or sports but we don't recognize the ones for whom surviving was thriving.
The kid whose parents are in the middle of a nasty divorce.
The kid who lost a parent.
The kid who was homeless for most of the year.
The kid who studied twice as hard for a C as the kid who got an A without breaking a sweat.
The teenager who was bullied.
The teenager who struggled with their sexuality in secret.
The teenager who broke up with her boyfriend, Mr. Popular, because he started being abusive.
For some students, getting to the end of any school year is an accomplishment.
So here's to anyone who counted down the days for this one to be over. You made it. Take a moment to be proud of that, and then go enjoy the summer.
Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.