As everywhere else, Wilton High School’s Class of 2020 got skunked out of a lot of things this year. Closure of the school because of the pandemic meant no prom, no special end-of-year days.

And then there was graduation. It may not have been the typical graduation we are used to, where classmates sit shoulder to shoulder on the football field, parents baking in the stands. But it was your graduation, Class of 2020, and it was special because no other class will have one like it.

As unusual as it was, there are ways in which it was like any other.

As the graduates caravaned through town with their families, past Cider Mill and Middlebrook — the schools where many of them completed the lower grades — they were cheered on by members of the community who otherwise would never see them in their caps and gowns.

They drove along School Road and saw their own faces looking back at them in the form of commemorative signs, and finally school staff lined the approach to the high school on Kristine Lilly Way, recognizing their achievement with hearty applause. Thus was the Class of 2020’s grand finale to their high school performance.

Graduation is a time when past accomplishments are honored and students say good-bye to their childhood. It is a time to remember, to celebrate, to commemorate, and to hesitate — to pause before making the leap into adulthood.

These students have been given the gift of a rigorous and demanding education, and they have risen to the challenge. They have shown compassion and persistence, diligence and strength of character. They have grown from uncertain young teens into self-assured, well-spoken, well-informed young women and men.

While graduation is understandably the time when students want to look back and remember, to mark the end of their high school years, it is no mistake that the rite of passage is called a commencement exercise. The end of one journey is always the beginning of another, no matter how uncertain.

Despite the unpredictability of the times we live in right now, things will not always be so. Our new graduates have completed their high school journey, and like all others are starting down a new path as young men and women who will become teachers, doctors, plumbers, artists, soldiers, actors — anything they set their minds to.

Although they are all starting down their separate paths, they stand united in the lessons they learned together at Wilton High School. They can start down these paths knowing they have the support of the community that has nurtured and cared for them, arming them with knowledge to make the right decisions, all the while watching them grow into well-rounded young men and women.

Graduation marks the beginning of life beyond required participation in academia. New challenges and experiences lie ahead, but they will no longer be handed to these graduates; they must pursue them and make them happen themselves. Now come choices and responsibilities — scary sounding words, but these are not things to be feared, they should be cherished and embraced.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020. As the ultimate tribute to the lessons you have learned and those who have taught them to you, make your first “real world” decision the decision to celebrate safely and responsibly. It’s the beginning of a whole new world.