NELDON: Class of 2020 has gone the distance

In boxing, when a boxer finishes a fight without being knocked out, it’s called “going the distance.”

To earn this recognition, these athletes have overcome adversity in the ring. They have taken punches, but kept fighting. They have been knocked to the ground and gotten right back up.

Less than two months ago, seniors across the country were knocked down by that same word — “distance” — their senior year ended in one sharp blow as the government and health officials advised social distancing was the only way to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Much like the boxers in the ring, these young adults bounced back. They took the punches like champs, and they kept fighting.

Left with little closure to the hard work they had put in for the past 13 years, these soon-to-be graduates rallied around each other. They hosted virtual proms and Zoom study sessions. They adapted to new ways of learning. They celebrated with drive-by birthdays and decorated porches.

They took adversity in stride — and they came back swinging.

When social distancing first began, the staff at Leader Publications was full of sympathy for the Class of 2020. In hopes of making them feel special, we turned our annual black and white graduation newspaper section into a full-color, glossy magazine. We set up scholarships for an essay contest, hoping to give these students an outlet to vent their frustrations about COVID-19 and the way it wrecked their senior year.

When the submissions started pouring in, we realized these young adults were not seeking sympathy. They were not bitter. Instead, they were determined to make the best of a bad situation.

Over and over again, essay writers celebrated the fact that the Class of 2020 is full of fighters. Born shortly after the September 11 tragedy, these 18-year-olds have already survived a terrorist attack, an economic recession, a horrific slew of mass shootings throughout our country, and now a global pandemic.

These seniors have made it clear that these tragedies have only made them stronger, and that they have been repeatedly reminded to count their blessings.

Instead of mourning loss, these young adults are celebrating making history.

As they finish their high school career and take the first steps into their futures, our local seniors can celebrate the proverbial arm raise at the end of the fight, a sign they have won the battle.

Class of 2020, distance may have changed your senior year, but like all the best boxers, you have gone the distance.

Business

Niles Apple Festival Harvest Market aims to showcase vendors, food trucks

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan sees 117,910 cases, 6,680 deaths

Berrien County

Niles man gets probation for criminal sexual conduct

Berrien County

Public Safety Warning issued following multiple vehicle break-ins in Berrien County

Dowagiac

DUS approves hire of new Sister Lakes assistant principal

News

Niles Charter Township board approves millages for ballot

Buchanan

Buchanan Art Center donates more than $1,500 to RAM

Dowagiac

DUS approves ICG site improvement plan

News

Niles pastor takes vocals to park

Berrien County

MDARD reminding schools, businesses to only use EPA-approved disinfectants

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan sees 117,406 cases, 6,665 deaths

Dowagiac

Dowagiac City Council authorizes loans for sanitary sewer improvements

News

Local organization hosts voter registration, cookout

Berrien County

Michigan Works! announces support for front line workers

Dowagiac

Sept. 21 Dowagiac weather report

Berrien County

Michigan Teen Safe Driving program enters 10th year

Berrien County

Free virtual cancer symposium open to providers, public

Education

Niles Community Schools’ remote platform allows students to go at own pace

Business

Dowagiac business donates backpacks, school supplies to students in need

Cassopolis

Miss Cassopolis Scholarship Program hosting school supply drive

Berrien County

Berrien County Health department gets blunt on marijuana education, safety

Cass County

Two Dowagiac men sentenced Friday in Cass County Court

Cass County

Cass County works to expand broadband access

Edwardsburg

Ontwa Township passes 2.25 percent millage increase