Joseph Bernardo was in the second half of his freshman year when the pandemic began. By sophomore year, everything was online — and Bernardo, like so many in his class, struggled to keep up. When he was a junior, Bernardo got used to people telling him he’d never get his diploma, and he started to believe it too. But by senior year, he decided he would prove them wrong.
This week, he delivered a commencement speech to Thornton High’s Class of 2023 in Daly City, three months after graduating early.
“I really lost myself during that COVID year,” Bernardo said. “So now, this is like I’m bouncing back.”
Joseph Bernardo smiles after graduating from Thornton High School in Daly City, Calif., Tuesday, May 23, 2023. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Bernardo isn’t alone. Across the Bay Area, thousands of students are finishing up a high school experience like no other — one that dovetailed exactly with the rise and fall of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that, many in the Class of 2023 aren’t upset about the circumstances. They feel stronger for it, and better prepared for whatever comes next.
“Who gets to say that they went through a global pandemic and still got through school — and that it didn’t hold them back?” said Ellis Chhourn, who graduated from Oakland High School this week. ”We were able to maneuver, find different ways to get an education, and persevere through it. I feel like because of all this, it makes our year special.”
For Bernardo, that meant learning to put in the time, and staying up past midnight studying to recover from those years of upheaval. For Geno Malone, an Oakland High grad, that meant relearning something he’d always found easy: making friends. And for Jackelin Ramirez, Malone’s classmate, that meant a change in perspective — and a better appreciation of the friends, teachers and events around her.
“You don’t realize how much a moment really matters until it’s gone,” said Ramirez. “(The pandemic) made me cherish the people around me.”
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment