I thought last year’s senior class experience was going to be one for the record books. It was just a small taste of the absurdity that was to come.

The 2020-21 school year is defined by many firsts and many failures, but most importantly, it has given us a change of perspective. We are suddenly looking back longingly at the days before COVID, lamenting what we have missed and what could have been.

We miss the days when we could hold a pep fest and pack kids in the gyms and yell at the top of our lungs in joy and celebration.

We miss the days when a cough meant simply you had something in your throat and needed a drink of water.

We miss being able to enjoy youth sports or a band concert without having to justify our close relationship to a participant so we can get a coveted ticket.

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"Yet, what about the perspective of what we have gained? We are celebrating a class of graduates who completed a high school degree while not even stepping foot into the school for three months."

— Aaron Nelson, Pequot Lakes High School principal


We miss having face-to-face meetings and potluck lunches.

We miss giving a hug to someone who needed it without fear of the germs exchanged.

We miss so much.

Yet, what about the perspective of what we have gained? We are celebrating a class of graduates who completed a high school degree while not even stepping foot into the school for three months.

We have gained the skills that allow us to connect with learning experiences near and far and even at unseemly times of the day. We have explored how flexible learning can be.


"I challenge the graduates of the Patriot Class of 2021 to 'Fail Forward.' If a worldwide pandemic cannot keep you down, then don’t let the little things of life derail you."

— Aaron Nelson, Pequot Lakes High School principal


We have learned to value and appreciate the time we do have with people. The teachers have celebrated how so many students made a point of thanking their teachers at the end of each Zoom session. Students were going on vacation and taking their school with them. Students went to work and completed their schooling successfully.

School no longer had to happen on a fixed schedule and this opened many possibilities.

School will never be the same and this graduating class can speak with firsthand knowledge of the impact it has had on them. But not all of that impact has been bad.

As the saying goes: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade ... and sell it for a $1 per glass.” Failure is not fatal; all of us experience it and the best of us learn from it to become better.

I challenge the graduates of the Patriot Class of 2021 to "Fail Forward." If a worldwide pandemic cannot keep you down, then don’t let the little things of life derail you.

As the great Dr. Seuss said: “You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So ... get on your way!”

Aaron Nelson is Pequot Lakes High School principal.