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Despite past outcomes, keep on planning

Little did we know when my eldest son, a senior at Youngstown State University, headed off in March to Fort Lauderdale for a last hurrah during spring break with his college friends that it REALLY would be a last hurrah for college.

I recall my mother asking in the early days of the coronavirus leading up to his trip if her grandson still was planning to travel. Believe me, there was little chance my son, like most carefree college kids, was going to cancel his plans.

He was in Florida when I received word via a press release to area media from YSU President Jim Tressel that the university’s spring break was being extended by another week due to COVID-19.

My son and his buddies returned home, safe and healthy, and not too upset that they had another week away from their studies.

It soon came to pass that YSU classes — like all colleges and K-12 schools around the state and most of the nation — would not return to class for a while. Students, instead, would work remotely via online classes for several more weeks.

As the transition began, I cautioned him that “online” does not equate to “blow off.” That didn’t take long to sink in. He buckled down, and as the semester wore on, he realized he would not be heading back for in-person classes at all this year.

That meant he would spend the remainder of his days as an undergraduate watching lectures via livestream, struggling to complete complex science labs online and communicating with his professors via email.

Meanwhile, my other son, a junior in high school, found it worked better for him to sleep late and tackle his online assignments late in the evening. While he kept his grades up, his frustrations stemmed from boredom, missing his friends and the loss of his high school baseball season.

The scenarios were very different, but equally disappointing. As a parent, each was heartbreaking.

Indeed, we have such little time in our youth, and my boys, like all students this year, are missing so many opportunities to make those memories that last a lifetime.

My older son’s cap and gown arrived in the mail, and he donned the cap as our family gathered May 9, not at Stambaugh Stadium to watch him cross the stage, but in our living room awaiting a quick flash of his name and “Bachelor of Science” on a computer screen. We clapped and cheered aloud to express our pride.

It was certainly not the day we had envisioned for the last four years, nor was it the commencement he deserved.

Still, we were grateful at YSU’s creative attempt to make this day special. Certainly, compiling hundreds of pages bearing the name of every graduate and degree was not a simple task. This creativity was put forth not just at YSU, but at every high school in the Mahoning Valley and nearby colleges and institutions of higher learning. I hope all the students and families are as appreciative of these efforts as we were.

Like all students, he will move on from this time with a newfound understanding that things don’t always work out the way we envision.

Country singer Thomas Rhett said it well in his song “Life Changes,” when he wrote these lyrics: “You make your plans, and you hear God laughing.”

We will remain hopeful that next year’s high school graduations are more traditional for my younger son, who is about to enter his senior year.

And my older son is now testing and researching opportunities to return to school for further education.

We remain hopeful that those plans work out, and that we get another chance to see him walk across the stage. Yes, we are back to planning.

And for now, we are thankful for our health, and praying our family stays that way.

Linert is editor of The Vindicator and the Tribune Chronicle.

blinert@tribtoday.com

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