In a year filled with with constant hurdles the Class of 2020 persevered. Mayor Lott takes a moment to reflect on their accomplishments and remind them that wherever they go in life Plant City will always be their champion.
Whenever a student graduates from a high school in Plant City, they receive a special message directly from their mayor.
Mayor Rick Lott annually writes letters to the current graduating class of our local high schools congratulating them on their accomplishment. This year is no different, though he said there’s a weight that lingers due to the disruption of the Class of 2020 due to COVID-19. Each student will receive a letter of their own, but Lott also sat down with the Plant City Observer to pen a further message to the class that had to adapt to a reality no other set of students has ever had to face.
“When I think of the Class of 2020, I think of a group of students that’s faced more obstacles, along with their families, than most who come through the school system,” Lott said. “Think about it: the year they were born, 9/11 occurred. While they were obviously very young, their families had to deal with the aftermath of that. Then they had to grow up during the great recession. They had parents that lost jobs and now they’re in a pandemic that is causing many to be unemployed once more. The pandemic they’re facing comes with a lot of chaos and yet this group is pulling through. Our life experiences typically are what define us. Through all of this the Class of 2020 has continued to succeed, to win championships and break records, to have the highest graduation rate in recent history, to accomplish amazing results in every endeavor they pursue.”
Lott said these challenges are personal, they’re local, they’re national and even worldwide, yet the students have proven time and again that through hard work and determination they can accomplish anything.
When he thinks of the future of Plant City and the future of our nation, he is filled with a sense of hope because he said this class will use its optimism and drive to propel us into a prosperous tomorrow.
And he wants students to know that the city has their back.
Pointing to the results of the graduate parade held last weekend and to several of the smaller events that have popped up throughout the community, he said it’s obvious that the Plant City community is unique. In the span of approximately three weeks from the initial call he received from Plant City High School Principal Susan Sullivan, the entire volunteer staff, teachers, parade partners and long list of participating schools merged together to accomplished the massive feat.
COVID-19 may have changed the nature of the how students say goodbye, but the community rallied together to help them create new memories that will last a lifetime.
And for Lott, this endeavor means more than ever. He isn’t just saying goodbye to another set of graduates, he’s watching as the children he’s known since they were infants take the first steps toward adulthood.
Lott’s son is wrapping up his senior year at PCHS. The losses that COVID-19 caused local students to endure were felt fully by his family and Lott wants every student to know he understands what was taken from them.
Their yearbooks are bare, no messages from friends and teachers are lining the photo-filled pages. Their phones are missing the albums worth of photos of their friends and teachers saying goodbye to their campus for the last time. No one got to dress up and go dancing with friends at prom. There were no final performances for senior theater actors or last concerts for the studious musicians. Band members at Plant City High School had to unpack their suitcases and say goodbye to the dream of performing at Carnegie Hall after the concert was cancelled at the very last minute. Teams never got to have their final huddle and FFA members were unable to feel the emotions of donning their blue jacket for the last time.
He sees what it’s like and he said that he hopes they know that he and our city are here for them and we are all looking forward to seeing where the next few years take them.
“I personally have known these kids because they grew up with my son, they played sports together, they literally grew up before my eyes playing in my backyard and suddenly here they are as young adults about to venture off toward their dreams,” Lott said. “And when I talk to them, many of them are pursuing a dream I remember them having when they were just small kids. Some of their dreams have evolved and changed and they’re going after those with everything they have. This group of seniors, they’re champions. They’ve won cheerleading championships and soccer championships, baseball championships, they’ve taken home two titles in the Special Olympics. We’ve had state officers with FFA and champions in multiple FFA team events. When I think of the group of leaders that we are going to have come out of this class, I’m just so proud of them, I’m really proud of them. Plant City is going to be in good hands.”
Lott said that the future shines bright for the class and he is looking forward to what tomorrow brings.
“On behalf of my fellow commissioners and our citizens we wish our graduates the best and hope they will chase their dreams with the same vigor that they have so far in their journey,” Lott said.