The class of 2020 has been dealt a hand of cards that includes the loss of many important milestone events that typically take place in the final months of a student’s senior year in high school. They’ve been dealt a bad hand.

There’s no way to hide or sugarcoat that reality, and we’re so sorry for our students who have had to work through being a senior during a global pandemic. Staff, administrators, community members and parents have all worked hard to try to make lemonade out of this big lemon, and there have been some great moments to cherish, no doubt; but it would be wrong to say we have a nice glass of lemonade.

Patriot seniors, it is very much OK and understandable to feel angry, to feel grief and to carry disappointment. Please know that we - your Patriot family - stand with you in this emotional time, and we will keep standing together as all good families do. We celebrate the many ways you’ve made a positive impact on our lives, and we look forward to seeing the impact you are certain to make as you step into the world as a Patriot alumni.

Patriot community, last August I included an article in the school district newsletter called “Please Join Us in Creating A Safe and Supportive Culture for Every Student” that included the following challenge:

"Learning to value the opinions of those we disagree with is a learned behavior, and I’m calling upon our community to serve as a model for our students to learn from, as it certainly is not being modeled at other levels of government. Would you please join us in helping our students learn what honorable and compassionate civic engagement looks like? And would you please join us in helping to make sure every student feels safe and supported while in our schools? It is definitely a responsibility we all hold together."

I am resharing this challenge in a time when the tone of public discourse is more divisive, destructive, biased, misinformed and disheartening than ever before in my memory. Times of crisis throughout world history have sharpened our view of what lies in the hearts of those around us and this crisis is no different.

What are we modeling for our students in social media, in conversations and by what we are choosing to watch on television? The eyes of children are always on us, and they are learning from what we adults choose to read, say and listen to.

Author Dr. David Walsh said, “Those that tell the story define the culture.”

Are we telling the story for our children or is it the for-profit news media, social media or those with biased and misinformed opinions? My hope is that we adults are intentionally defining the culture by telling the stories of compassion, respect, grace, team work, resilience and love.

May we be a community that models an American spirit of collaboration, respect, community, care for others and grace.

Patriot seniors, thank you for blessing us with so many years of great memories and for making our schools a better place to be. Thank you for continuing to raise the bar and for challenging us to keep improving and innovating.

And now, “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine upon your face. And rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.” - Irish Blessing

Chris Lindholm is Pequot Lakes School District superintendent.