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Graduation 2021: A ‘weird’ year ends on a postitive note at Mt. Abe

FRESH MOUNT ABE graduate Ellie Ginsburg was able to see through the strangeness of the past year to see the positives in the Class of 2021 and their unusual experiences. Photo by Buzz Kuhns

BRISTOL — When Ellie Ginsburg talks about her recently completed senior year at Mount Abraham Union High School she uses words like “weird” and “strange,” which stands to reason since the pandemic-tinged 2020-21 school year unraveled like a mystery novel:

How will hybrid learning work? Will students be safe at school? Will a surge in COVID cases force local districts to go fully remote? Will vaccines come in time? Will college admissions offices take into consideration how hard this year has been? Will there be a prom? Will we sit together for graduation? Will our families be able to attend?

Thankfully, the answers to all of those questions have been generally positive, and Mount Abe’s Class of 2021 ended their four years with gratitude.

“Students were able to see the positives of this year, even though it was strange,” Ginsburg said. “We didn’t get the year we might have had, but the opportunities we did have felt like a big deal.”

There was a prom after all, in the Mount Abe gym, and Ginsburg and her friends got dressed up, donned their masks, and made merry.

And graduation was great, she said.

“It was surprisingly normal after a weird year,” she said. “It was great to see the whole class together.”

Ginsburg is headed to Connecticut College next year, and though the pandemic did not dramatically alter her trajectory, she did learn a few things from the past year of attending school in person just two days a week.

“One thing I’ve gotten better at is time management,” she said. “You’re working independently, with no one to be accountable to. I feel like that’s an important skill, especially for college.”

She also tried something new during her senior year.

“I did track for the first time, which was a strange thing to do, but it was great and I’m glad I did it.”

Ginsburg usually plays soccer, and had high hopes for playing in college, but the pandemic has posed a few challenges in that department.

“COVID affected the scouting clinics, so while I will be trying out in college I won’t get the chance to be recruited.”

If anything, this may be the one disappointment Ginsburg has experienced her senior year.

“Then again, it might be for the best,” she said. “It’s a big-time commitment and club soccer might be a better fit for me.”

Above all, during the pandemic Ginsburg and her classmates adapted, she said.

“We had to, in school, socially. But in general people have been resilient, and that’s been a cool thing to see.”

Mount Abe Principal Shannon Warden and teacher Dana DeWitt echoed that sentiment at this year’s graduation ceremony.

“I believe that our students have been much more resilient than others because we teach and practice heart,” Warden said. “We are honest, engaged, appropriate, responsible and timely in all that we do. These values transcend all classes, programs, spaces and learning that occur at Mount Abe. Our students are able to embody heart because of all of you sitting here with us today.”

DeWitt spoke to their positive spirit.

“You’ve missed so much,” she said. “You never got to sit in the senior section at assemblies. Some of you lost some whole seasons of sports and performance opportunities that can’t be made up. You’ve missed out on well-deserved awards and honors. You never got to walk through the halls as seniors. Most of all, you lost being able to see each other at school as a whole class. You have been keenly aware of what you have missed, but I have never heard you feel sorry for yourselves. Instead, you spoke of recognizing that there were others worse off than you.”

The Class of 2021 will never be stopped, Dewitt said.

“You will keep being yourselves, navigating the world, and being an example for us all. You taught this school what really matters: people, relationships, loving freely, and being yourself. But the greatest legacies you will leave Mount Abraham are your genuine kindness and your total acceptance of others.”

John Flowers contributed reporting to this story.

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