The coronavirus pandemic has had so many devastating effects on all of our lives, and as the mother of a graduating high school senior, I know the disappointment, sadness and feeling of being cheated that so many young people and their families are feeling. My daughter Jasmine Armstrong is such a joy! She is smart and incredibly talented, and she has had such an amazing academic life at Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts in Manhattan. But what should have been a touching, glorious celebration for her and the 51 other graduates at this intimate high school has become a living nightmare.

This weekend she received her cap and gown in the mail, and when she put them on and walked down the hall to show her father and I, I wanted to cry. We were so looking forward to seeing her walk down the aisle at graduation and I would have had my tissues ready as they played “Pomp and Circumstance.” (I cannot even hum the tune without getting teary-eyed.) My daughter and some of her friends also realized that this past Saturday would have been prom, but now that too is, of course, not happening. They had paid for a senior trip to Great Adventure and had paid for other senior activities, which were refunded. And her school was to have made a trip to Spain and Portugal this past April, but needless to say that was cancelled.

This pandemic changed these kids’ lives in such a drastic, harsh way. No one saw it coming and none of us have ever experienced anything like this in our lifetime. My daughter, though, has risen to the occasion. As a senior, she has participated in online learning with everyone else. She has come up with her own schedule to do her work and sometimes will be up until the wee hours of the morning on the phone and computer doing homework with friends and studying for tests. Whatever it takes, God has given her and her friends the strength, ability, intelligence and power to meet the challenge. She is an A student and, when I think about all that she is going through, I have to admire her for keeping her positive spirit. Jasmine has always been someone who makes other people feel good. She has always been a great listener and genuinely cares about others.

She has been attending Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts these four years and has developed her confidence in her amazing and powerful singing voice and in her craft as an actress, singer and dancer, because it is a triple-threat high school, and she has also become a published playwright. This year she is in Advanced Musical Theatre and was finally going to get not only a solo, but the opening number to the class’s final production! That, of course, was cancelled and it is something I cannot think about without tearing up. My baby was going to get to SHINE!

Despite all these negatives, Jasmine has managed to stay as positive as possible. She has done so by throwing herself into her schoolwork, spending time communicating with her friends and teachers, sometimes participating in online movie nights with marvelous faculty like Ms. I, and just staying open-minded. She is focusing on going to college in the fall, where she will be a Theater major. It’s strange when you think about what is going on in the world right now. Right now, real life is something none of us could have imagined in our wildest dreams. But I’m so appreciative that there are youth in this world, like my Jasmine, who don’t allow all the negatives out there to stop them from dreaming and planning to succeed.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE GRADUATING CLASS OF 2020, and especially to the students of Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts and to the other parents of graduates. We are all in this together! God bless everyone and their families!