High school seniors across the Central Susquehanna Valley have been walking in caps and gowns in front of family and friends over the past few weeks with ceremonies in Mifflinburg and Lewisburg yet to come within the next two weeks.

They listen to classmates’ speeches, collect diplomas and turn tassels together, sharing the final moments of their high school careers.

All of those moments — the sights, sounds and memories — were in jeopardy just a few weeks ago.

The last two graduating classes had extraordinary ends to their careers, truly unlike any that have come in a long, long time.

Any student in school over the last two years has dealt with unparalleled adversity. For many, the challenges will be not only memorable but character-building.

That goes doubly for students who had to end their high school careers so differently than previous classes. More of this year’s graduates will take fewer things for granted and will seize opportunities they might have otherwise passed up because of what they endured.

This year’s senior classes spent an entire year under the dark cloud of COVID-19, when every day there was at least the threat of a shift to all-virtual classes at any moment. They also dealt with the threat that they or their loved ones could become ill and face life-threatening symptoms.

Worry and uncertainty provided added stressors to what can already be a stressful time — the last year with longtime friends, work, work co-ops, college decisions and, eventually, final projects and final tests.

On top of all of that, what about graduation? Would it be held? Would it be an authentic, emotional graduation experience if it was held?

The storm clouds haven’t completely gone, but the sun and blue sky are visible.

On Memorial Day, Pennsylvania lifted all of its COVID-19 restrictions with the exception of mask-wearing for individuals who are not completely vaccinated.

No limits on crowds in indoor or outdoor spaces. People who have been inoculated can gather — and celebrate — without wearing a mask.

The move paved the way for graduating seniors across the region to hold commencement in more traditional fashion, an unexpected and welcome reward for a long road traveled since March of 2020.

The remarkable resolve and determination of these students — and their peers, parents, teachers, coaches, advisers and anyone else who provided love, support and encouragement to them — deserves to be celebrated.

Congratulations to all graduating seniors. Enjoy these moments. You earned them.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard and News Editor Eric Pehowic.

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