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COLUMN: Class of 2020 should be proud of ‘Finishing Strong’

Senior quotes and skip days, I heard about them both as I stepped into my final year at Demopolis High School. My mom cheered as I took my very last ‘first day picture.’ Every year there was a mantra. A theme that she repeated when things went well and every time things did not. I made it through the “We Got This” of my ninth grade. I barely got through the year of “We Do The Hard Things” for tenth grade. I squeaked by my eleventh grade year with her thinking she was the coach in that movie, “Facing the Giants,” chanting “Five more yards! Don’t you quit on me!”

On the first day of my senior year, I heard the words that would be repeated over and over my senior year, “Finish Strong!” I knew as

Samuel Blankenship is a member of the Demopolis High School Class of 2020 and has contributed to the Demopolis Times as a sports writer and photographer.

soon as I heard it, this would be what my mom would tell me when I got tired. It would be the same thing she told me when I forgot to study for a test, or when I stayed up late finishing a book. “Finish Strong!” At the time, I didn’t know that it would become the hashtag

for almost every senior mom in the nation. I had no idea that simply finishing would be the hardest thing every student did this year. We stepped into our senior year with the hopes and plans of every other class that had come before us. We were beginning to get a little comfortable and then … COVID-19, a worldwide pandemic that quickly changed everything. To those that have lost family or experienced this illness, I am sorry for your loss and hardship through this time. I know people have lost jobs and businesses are losing money. I know families have lost their loved ones and across the nation we have lost teachers, students, doctors, nurses, and family because of the pandemic.

The last time I saw all of my senior class, we thought we were being sent home a little early before spring break. Now we know that we were up against a much worse scenario. What we did during our time away from school is something in which we should all be proud. The Class of 2020 finished strong. We went to work — many of us began our first jobs during the pandemic. We went to class in our pajamas as we left the classroom and started distance learning at home. We stepped up as many of our class joined the armed forces to serve our nation and some became first responders for our community. We put away the soccer balls, racquets and bats and we put on our tennis shoes. We ran miles around our neighborhoods. We taught our little brothers and sisters their homework and they taught us patience.

What we did, in big and small ways, to honor our families and our communities through COVID-19 should give us a sense of pride. I am ready to take the field and graduate with a group of people that worked very hard at doing their best through the hardest of times. We know there are many that won’t join us on graduation night and they are missed greatly. We know that it was supposed to be different, but we are ready to face this world in ways that no other class has done before.

As we get ready to take this step, remember, Class of 2020, we finished strong.

— Samuel Blankenship is a member of the DHS Class of 2020 and has contributed as a sports writer and photographer for the Demopolis Times. He is the son of Robert and Melissa Blankenship.