To the Class of 2020: Congratulations! We are proud of your accomplishments and excited for what your future holds.

Your parents, teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, principals and community have set you up for success. The quality of education in Cullman County is top-notch; you’re ready for whatever challenges come at you next.

We should warn you, though: at some point, you’re going to fail. There is no shame in that. Everyone at some point experiences failure. It is not the failure that defines you; it’s how you react to that failure. How you pick yourself up afterwards and what you learn from the experience and take with you going forward.

This is where one of the biggest lessons in life comes in, the lesson you have already experienced this year, and that’s the importance of resiliency. This graduating class, above all others, has had to learn about resiliency, the ability to bounce back from adversity and make new plans when previous ones fall short.

For a while, it didn’t look like graduates would have the opportunity to walk the stage and receive the public acknowledgment you deserve. We saw your disappointment, your wish to have that bit of “normal” for your senior year. And yet we also saw you accept it with grace and optimism.

It is a lesson that will be repeated throughout your life, because that’s just the way life is. But each opportunity to demonstrate your resiliency is another opportunity to amaze yourself with your strength and fortitude. You’ve got this; we’ve seen you demonstrate it already and know you can handle whatever curveballs or disruptions come your way.

We’re excited to get to celebrate you this weekend with graduation ceremonies that acknowledge the work you’ve done and the people who helped you get so far. But even if we couldn’t have had these in-person ceremonies, we celebrate you.

We wish you well going into this next exciting phase of your life. If your next step is college, technical school, the workforce, the military or wherever your path leads you, know that you’re not alone. Your community - the friends, family, teachers, mentors - who walked this far with you are always going to be here for you. Never be too afraid or prideful to ask them for help or advice along the way. Sometimes, the smartest thing a person can do is admit their own ignorance, and seek out the wisdom of others.

Never stop learning or being curious. Lifelong learning is its own reward and we experience a much fuller life when we continue to feed our brains and our souls with new information and experiences.

Travel; go out into the world. Experience new places and meet new people. Enrich yourself with knowledge and friendships.

Then, come home. Many of you are leaving Cullman for a while. But please, come back. Your community needs your ideas, your enthusiasm, your love of this community to help it continue to grow and thrive. You are our greatest renewable resource.

The next generation of graduates will one day be looking up to you as their role models. We know they won’t be disappointed.


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