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Perspective | Lenoir County seniors spread hope through music: ‘It’s gonna be okay’

We all have been trying to make sense of the unprecedented global crisis brought forth by the COVID-19 virus. Much has been written about the crisis. Even more has been said about this uneasy and uncertain time. People around the world are struggling to make sense of this pandemic and to work toward joining together as citizens of our global community to determine the best and safest ways to move forward from this crisis to better and more “normal” days for which we are hoping and believing will lie ahead for all.

Still, however, within the current context and the greatly altered reality of our “now,” all of us are worried about the impact of this worldwide crisis on those young people that we are blessed to serve every day. In recent years, our students have experienced a series of “interruptions” in the progression of their school years – initial “interruptions” that were followed by months and even years of struggle to recover fully if ever at all.

Our seniors, for instance, have experienced three consecutive hurricanes – Matthew, Florence, and Dorian – in a little over three years. Now, like everyone else, they are contending with the COVID-19 crisis. All of our students, our staff members, and our larger overall communities need something to believe in and something positive or uplifting to embrace. During this crisis – just like in our daily lives – we all just need hope. Hope founded in a positive belief in others and supported by the unwavering notion that things will improve and that, without question, there will be a better day for all.

As our seniors end this year in ways that they never imagined, with so much that already has been missed, canceled, or changed in dramatic ways, our young people could be filled with a sense of sadness and even bitterness. I am sharing with you a small but powerful piece of evidence that this is not the case and, further, that our Class of 2020 (in all of our school systems throughout North Carolina) truly is made up of wonderful, resilient, and irrepressibly positive young people who not only are a credit to our school districts now, but also that will help to lead our global community into a future that surely will be brighter and better because of their leadership tomorrow having lived through the challenges of today.

I am very thankful for the Class of 2020 and for every bright smiling face that we will honor this year in whatever alternative ways are possible as we present them with their diplomas and send them forth with our admiration, our best wishes, and, purely, with our love.

I have included below a song that was written by one of our students, Ethan Cahoon, a senior at South Lenoir High School. He was moved by what currently is happening and by the enormity of “change” in our world and in the progression of his senior year. Ethan said that he wanted to share something positive with his fellow seniors and with others.

Ethan shared his lyrics with a classmate and fellow senior, Avery Harper, who took a couple of days to write music to accompany the lyrics from Ethan. Ethan and Avery worked out their song as Avery sang. They thought that they needed some additional help, so they brought in another senior, Arielle Winn, to harmonize with Avery.

These students are not professional musicians. Instead, they are just kids who wanted to help others. Together, they created what our school system family feels to be a very moving song – something simply beautiful in a time that needs so much more of that which is positive and that which is beautiful. Simply put, it is an expression of hope: A work of positive determination that everything really will be fine and that we will get through this together.

What better vehicle for such an uplifting and inspiring sentiment than a song, and what better ambassadors of “hope” than our young people?

I invite you to listen to these simple lyrics and this powerful message from our children that affirms what you know – that hope for a better tomorrow is well-justified, and that the future for all absolutely will be better than ever because of what certainly will be the vision and leadership of the young people that we are so fortunate to serve today.

Brent Williams

Brent Williams is superintendent of Lenoir County Public Schools.