Student Story: Class Of 2020’s Fortitude Through Pandemic Promises Bright Future

Commentary By: Thomas E. Edmund, Jr.Gateway Regional High School

Thomas “TJ” E. Edmund, Jr. outside Gateway Regional High School on his graduation day, June 2, 2020. Photo credit: Michelle Meersand-Edmund.

NATIONAL PARK, N.J.. — Decades ago, no one could have possibly imagined that the year 2020 would be one lived through with great trials and tribulations, fighting against an “invisible enemy” like COVID-19. This uncanny duration of time, not being able to see my friends at school or reach the milestones of senior year of high school has put a lot of different things into much-clearer perspectives.

I may not have been able to attend the Senior Prom with my close-knit group of friends or travel to Walt Disney World for Senior Trip this year, but I cannot say that I am anything less than grateful for the health and safety of my loved ones. Having this experience writing weekly articles for Follow Local News has given me a newly-found appreciation for all that I have been afforded, seeing that some individuals and their families are unable to visit relatives in the hospital or have underlying medical conditions — when they are the most vulnerable. 

Becoming a journalist means that the person has a passion for constant learning far beyond the traditional classroom setting, complementary with a dedication to always deliver relevant, thoughtful news media especially in times of unrest.

Everyone has lived through a traumatic event that they can identify as an event which leaves a forever mark in history and one that no one will soon forget. Days before Thanksgiving in November 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated when his motorcade rode through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas. Many Americans looked on, surrounded by family and friends, devastated by the death of their fearless Commander-in-Chief. 

Approximately two decades later, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was a day marked in history when the shuttle exploded 73 seconds into flight, killing all seven passengers onboard. Each of these events has left its mark on history, respectively and years from now it will be marked in the history books that the year 2020 was one where people had to work through social injustice amid a global health crisis. When it comes time to adopt my children, they will know about the history of their ancestors and their tragedies.

Many of the members of the Class of 2020 were born during a time when the nation was wracked by terrorism and the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 and now those students are graduating high school during a pandemic. While the students may only remember 9/11 from history class, this health crisis may be forever etched in their memories.

Over these past few weeks in quarantine, I have learned a lot about journalism and the proper style of writing for news contributors and media experts. Reporting weekly on the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging but definitely eye-opening mainly due to its unconventional nature. While I miss not having a daily routine that revolves around going to school, spending time with extracurriculars, and coming home and doing homework every evening, I have enjoyed spending time with my loved ones in what seemed like Bill Murrary’s Groundhog Day. While it does present some distraction from a regular routine, it has also offered me the opportunity to report news and in the end, gain experience in an ever-changing field which is quite advantageous in itself. 

In the coming days, I am looking forward to graduation and even though it will probably be a little while until I can see my classmates again.  I take this time to congratulate every member of the Gateway Regional High School Class of 2020 who I know will serve as essential workers in health, science, and technology along with those going into Criminal Justice and Audio/Visual Arts and Communications. 

In the future, should another global crisis arise, let the members of the current Class of 2020 make a lasting impact in their communities by advancing medicine/technology, continue to produce news media, appreciate the arts, and ultimately do what they enjoy most and find true in their hearts. 

Thomas E. Edmund, Jr., “TJ”, is a graduate of Gateway Regional High School in Woodbury Heights, NJ and an intern at After graduation, he will be attending Rowan College of Southern New Jersey to begin his quest to become a journalist.