Onward, East Tech Class of 2020

A reflection from Richaun Bunton, Promise Initiative Manager

Richaun Bunton

On Tuesday, June 23, 2020, I had the opportunity to witness history in the making.  East Technical High School honored their 73 graduating seniors by hosting a social-distanced commencement drive-through. Coordinated by CMSD and the East Tech staff, the 73 and their families lined the parking lot of East Professional Center to receive their official diplomas. As the emcee announced students names, families drove to the podium, exited their cars and were presented their diplomas by East Tech principal Dr. Temujin Taylor. They then drove down a row of perfectly parked cars that honked their horns, chanted student names and shouted Congratulations!!

I have been to several graduations, but this graduation felt different. To witness students accompanied by their loved one, in cars, some ornately decorated, watching them supported by a community determined to ensure this milestone moment was not forsaken, was terrific. I could hear the excitement in the voices as they shouted students’ names and waved outside of their cars, ensuring that students knew they were there to help cheer them onto their next phase of life.

Seeing families’ reactions as they drove down the driveway lined with vehicles filled with people who help guide, empower, influence, or some way support them through their academic journey, my heart was filled with joy as tears streamed down my face. I felt the students’ excitement as they smiled and waved to the rows of educators and community partners.

I was overwhelmed with emotions because this class of 2020 graduates endured when things became uncertain. Graduation is a pivotal celebration that marks a milestone in life. It is a rite of passage for some and a significant accomplishment for others, acknowledging that all don’t complete this process.  The 2019-2020 school year ushered in a new class, welcomed new opportunities, and the vision ahead was truly “20/20,” clear, limitless and easily attainable. Instead, this year has brought confusion, uncertainty, and a need to re-structure. Much like these 73 graduates, their families and the faculty had to do things they never planned on. They showed resiliency and perseverance in its purest form. When turning away could have been easy, they displayed patience and endured. 

This celebration was more than a graduation. It was an affirmation of faith. That no matter how difficult life’s challenges may become, no matter how uncertain the world may present to be, there is benefit in persistence.  A new journey begins for them, and this experience has allowed them to learn the importance of staying the course. Despite the confusion, despite statistics, despite whatever perceived challenges may present themselves, they are the resilient ones. They are the ones who will have the strength and courage to change the world.  I am grateful to have witnessed this heartfelt moment.

Congratulations to all of the graduates of 2020; your ability to withstand such uncertainty is a real example of the skills needed to help lead our world in years to come—Onward, class of 2020.​