Doing the right thing delayed is better than never doing it at all

— Photo from Cody McEneny Ingraham

Colin McEneny Ingraham, Guilderland’s Class of 2020 commencement speaker and one of hundreds of Guilderland graduates still waiting to make senior year memories delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To the Editor:

As we approach post-COVID times, don’t forget our 2020 graduates.

Our pandemic-era graduates have shown extraordinary resilience over the last two years. While students from kindergarten to college have struggled to learn over Zoom and have remained socially distanced throughout the pandemic, graduates faced these changes simultaneously with the major life transitions requisite with graduating.

For many, celebrating the major milestones of graduating and coming-of-age was hindered by the many public health concerns society has adjusted to. Now, vaccination rates offer visions of a promising future with more hugs, handshakes, and healing on the horizon. Part of this healing should include making up for lost time by creating the memories we thought would be made in 2020 and the Class of 2020 should be paid attention to in that manner.

In our own backyard, Guilderland grads for both the classes of 2020 and 2021 have missed out on proms, international fairs, sporting events, high school musicals, and a host of other joys they expected to participate in during their “last hoorah” as Dutchmen. As we heal, now is the time for Guilderland to build a stronger community among their alumni and alumnae by holding events like this and inviting the pandemic-era classes back to make those memories they were due last year.

Just because we’ve entered a new year does not mean those memories cannot be made. The classes of 2020 and 2021 can still have that prom, perform that solo, play in that game, and showcase their knowledge — but only if the school district and our community are willing to collaborate to make those things possible.

As a 2014 Guilderland graduate, I am more thankful than ever that I could make the memories I did as a high school senior. Having a brother and neighbors graduate last year, I can’t help but hope that the Class of 2020 did not totally miss out on those things because of an unprecedented pandemic.

No one can control how quickly time passes, but we can control how that time is spent. In this case, doing the right thing delayed is better than never doing it at all and doing so will not only help our community heal, but bring us closer together as a town by making new memories and traditions for a post-COVID Guilderland.

I commend the teachers, parents, administrators, and leaders in our town who have worked tirelessly to make these years academically and emotionally fulfilling for our town’s youth. Now, as Guilderland becomes more vibrant again, recognizing the classes of 2020 and 2021 should help establish a new attitude regarding how the Guilderland Central School District treats their alumni and alumnae.

For instance, inviting Guilderland alumni and alumnae at-large back for some sort of founder’s day or community-wide homecoming would be a great way to promote pride in our town, support local businesses, and showcase what is so special about our community. 

For many years, Guilderland’s alum relations has been a weak operation compared to neighboring districts and towns who frequently honor their graduates and invite them back for homecoming or founder’s day events. For example, each year Amsterdam has a wonderful homecoming with alumni-centered elements and Niskayuna’s “Niska-Day” offers a fun founder’s day that brings their entire community together.

Reminding graduates of their roots can open doors to mentorship opportunities for current students and foster an ideal of service that is essential to building a strong sense of community. Further, doing so would allow families who share a legacy of Guilderland graduates to take pride in their town and share old and new memories of their alma mater.

As a Guilderland alum and young professional, I appreciate Guilderland’s perfect situation as a small town community with a big world vision. However, there have not been many opportunities for Guilderland graduates to remain a part of that community in ways that other communities show really well.

Now, to our board of education, PTAs, and town leadership: Don’t allow the classes of 2020 and 2021 to become the “forgotten classes.” Plan that event, make those memories, and the outcome will pay back in dividends. A closer-knit community for our town can be on the horizon; however it will take the leadership of Dutchmen — past and present — to steer our ship towards that brighter future.

Cody McEneny Ingraham

Washington, D.C.

Editor’s note: Cody McEneny Ingraham is a 2014 Guilderland High School graduate and current law student at The George Washington University Law School.

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