The high school seniors at Choteau, Fairfield, Dutton/Brady and Fairfield are having unconventional graduation programs last week and this week.

They could never have known, back in August, what their final year of high school was going to be like. The COVID-19 pandemic has, blessedly, not taken any of their classmates or their teachers, but it has taken away so many “lasts” for them: their last walk through the school halls as graduating seniors, their last spring band and choir concerts, their last district and state music festivals, their last golf, track, tennis and softball matches. Their senior prom. Their senior trip. Senior skip day.

Instead of missing all these lasts, we hope instead that this group of amazing 17 and 18 year olds focuses on the firsts they have achieved. They are the first students in 100-plus years to complete their high school degrees during a worldwide pandemic. They are the first students in their school systems to finish every class online. They are the first seniors to make great sacrifices to help keep our communities disease free. They have shown their communities that they are strong, resilient and up for this amazing challenge.

They have demonstrated their heart and their character. We are always proud of the graduates of our county’s high schools, but we have to say, this year’s seniors are very impressive. The COVID-19 pandemic took much away from them, but it also gave them a great gift, throwing them a truly unexpected curveball and empowering them to pick up the pieces and carry on.

Congratulations, seniors!