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Congratulations to the class of 2020.

Most classes would say that it's been a long, hard road to get to this point, and that may feel especially true for you right now. The final quarter of your high school education vanished, longstanding traditions such as prom and commencement were postponed or canceled, and you're about to enter a world that feels uncertain and scary.

But we know you're up to the challenge. You've made it this far, which says a lot about your strength and resilience — two traits that will be in high demand as we move forward in a post-pandemic world.

In case you need a little more convincing, let's take a look back to the words of wisdom that seniors in prior classes have spoken when times were tough:

• In May 2002, just eight months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Joplin High School senior Ben Ramsour told his classmates that they would be "the class that will forever be tied to 9/11." But he urged them to hold onto hope: "I have hope for each new day," he said.

Another graduating senior in the class of 2002, Chesney Moore, reminded her peers that the trivial things in high school — such as who they took to prom, for example — won't matter. To that end, she encouraged them to do good: "The only thing that is going to matter is the impression you are going to make on this world," she said.

• In May 2012, one year after the devastating EF5 tornado ripped through Joplin and disrupted high school life, JHS senior Derek Carter recognized that he and his peers were "dramatically different people" than they were as freshmen for what they had endured. Amid the somber post-tornado atmosphere, he noted the strength of his classmates: "In the last year alone, this class has become fully aware of what life can throw at you. One thing is certain: Life will continue to be hard and will continue to move on."

Classmate Shelby Norvell saw the change as well, saying that the class of 2012 would have had "a regular, teenage school year" but for the tornado. She opted to look for the bright side: "You see a lot more respect toward other students. You see a lot less drama. You see a little more love."

Class of 2020, your trials and tribulations this year have been no less frustrating and demoralizing than what these two classes endured before you. As you move forward in life, remember their words of wisdom: There is still hope and love in this world, and although things will be difficult for a while yet, you have the strength in you to leave your mark and leave this world a little better than you found it.

That is our wish for you. Best of luck in your future endeavors.

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