Why we are cheering on the Class of 2020


COVID-19 has cancelled the joys of that experience, and left the drudgery. It’s no wonder that parents, teachers and mental-health experts are reporting an increasing sense of hopelessness and despair among the Class of 2020.

It’s not enough for us adults to shrug and say, “toughen up, snowflake”. Few of us at that age had faced such huge upheaval, and today’s year 12s do not have our decades of life experience to know that these challenges will, eventually, pass.

Loading

Nor should we leave it to students to figure out how to cope. As a community, we must put our arms around them – empathise with their plight, remind them that it is not permanent, acknowledge their lost opportunities and create new ones for them.

To that end, today we are launching our Cheering on the Class of 2020 series.

Over the next few months we will bring together mental health resources, information on how tertiary institutions are making entry easier, and stories about what year 12 students are doing to find joy and motivation within the restrictions around them.

We will ignite discussion on how to address the emerging youth mental health crisis.

We will investigate ways schools and families are reimagining the rites of passage such as schoolies and gap years. And we will urge governments and businesses to replace the narrative of uncertainty and gloom with one of hope for our young people.

Loading

Twenty-five years after leaving school, I remember little of my graduation. The formal is a blur of ill-fitting dresses and poorly-chosen boyfriends. I have forgotten everything I crammed into my head for the HSC (although the anxiety dreams persist).

A few times a year, however, I still have dinner with girls who walked with me down the yellow brick road. We laugh until we cry about our memories of school.

In the long run, friendships are the most precious, lasting momentos of year 12. And even COVID cannot take them away.