A Letter to the Ocean County Class of 2020:

Whether you walked across a stage, drove by in a car or celebrated it virtually, your graduation has great meaning to us all.

You see, as graduates, whether high school, college or middle school, all of you were faced with an unprecedented challenge in 2020 - one that none of us had familiarity with - and while there may have been some trepidation as to how things would tum out, you forged ahead, made the best of a difficult situation and in the end you received that diploma that shined the greatest light on your success during some very dark days. When it became clear that the novel coronavirus pandemic was going to shut down a great deal of our everyday routines, including school, it also came with change and disruptions no one could have anticipated. Proms, signing yearbooks, job fairs, interviews, last school days, were no longer on the calendar.

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As you mark the completion of your time in middle school, high school or college, all of you have reached a milestone in your life. This is your moment in time. Graduation marks the beginning of a new and significant journey as you take what you have learned and make it that much greater.

Today you are recognized for your hard work and dedication that got you to your goal of graduation.

With the help of your teachers, administrators, school staff and loved ones, you participated and completed classes that will help you in your future endeavors.

These are difficult times that we are currently in. But that should never stop you from dreaming big and from reaching as high as you can.As a member of the 2020 graduating class the obstacles you have overcome will someday be the stepping stones to your future and lessons learned that will make you stronger, more compassionate and more caring.

As students, you have developed critical thinking and problem solving skills to help propel you into a global landscape. Education exists to provide you with a unique, nurturing and inspiring experience. It prepares you for what's ahead so long as you use the tools you have been given wisely and to the benefit of not just you but others.

With graduation behind you, many of you will go on to continue your education and others will go out into the job market securing employment in a profession that interests you­ maybe it will be the trades, maybe it will be teaching, maybe it will be medicine. Whatever path you take remember the importance of the journey.

Your future begins today. Always remember that you are a part of something great and your world is one of opportunities. Take advantage of them. You can make the difference the world is counting on.

Best wishes,

Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari