I remember well the year I graduated from New Bedford High School. It was 1976, the bicentennial year. Alice Cooper reminded us that we were 18 and we could do what we liked. Our tassels were red, white and blue and there were bicentennial celebrations throughout the nation all summer long.

Graduating from high school was a major accomplishment. It was a big deal. We were trading in our school books and locker codes for adulthood. The next level. The big unknown. The future. Many went on to college while others settled into the working world. Still others fled the area never to look back again. Whatever your plans, graduation meant an end to your formal education. It was time to let go of everything that was safe and find a new comfort zone.

Grade school provided us a taste of independence and allowed us to take our first steps out into the world without Mom and Dad constantly by our sides. Junior high school gave us a chance to look beyond the playground and into the future. We charted our course. We also discovered the opposite sex and began to develop our own culture. Then it was high school. Our coming of age. Preparing for that future we dreamed about in junior high. The dances. The games. The prom. Commencement.

And then it was over.

The COVID-19 coronavirus has robbed this generation of kids the opportunity to complete that cycle uninterrupted. For those transitioning from grade school or middle school or graduating from high school, this unexpected disruption renders the process incomplete. It all ended abruptly. There was no closure. No chance to say goodbye.

Each step along the path of your formal education is important whether you appreciate it at the time or not. It's like a chain that links life's events. Because of the COVID crisis some of those links are missing. It has robbed our kids of important irreplaceable experiences. And that is truly sad.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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