Congratulations, 2020 Grads!

Filed Under: Youth & Family


Mary McIlrath

Senior Vice President, C+R Alum

At YouthBeat®, we consider our respondents to be part of our family.  We couldn’t be prouder of the latest crop of high schoolers who are graduating this spring.

Sure, graduation looks different in 2020.  Principals are driving over to students’ homes and placing personalized signs in yards—from a safe social distance.  Class rings are being delivered, as are caps and gowns—especially important for students who are the first in their families to finish high school. The drive-through “reception” is the new norm for high schoolers and college grads alike.

And Oprah is the national commencement address headliner on a star-studded night.  Tune in here.
At the risk of sounding untraditional, are these experiences not better than sitting for hours in a hot gymnasium waiting for your name to be called, and hopefully not missing the perfect photograph as you exit the stage?  This author sat through a handful of ceremonies in caps and gowns of different configurations—and was ungratefully bored at all of them. A parade of cars by the house with cupcakes and loved ones sounds like more of a personalized celebration!

Our favorite new take on the rites of passage for teens is the trend of “signing” yearbooks over Instagram. Taylor Lorenz, in the New York Times, reported on this recently: student governments are creating accounts the whole graduating class can access, to post messages, images, and memories of the time they spent together.

Over the past decade, we at YouthBeat® have loved “watching” these tykes mature into thoughtful, resilient, creative young adults.  Here’s a bit of how we’ve seen them change over the last decade:

  • In 2009, the favorite “for fun or sport” physical activities of kids ages 6-8 were swimming (77%) and bowling (62%). A decade later, teens ages 16-18 prefer walking (70%) but still love swimming (62%).* We’ve got a generation of water babies!
  • What they loved the most as kids were playing (51%) and having fun (13%).  As teens, they say the best part about their life stage is hanging out with friends (15%) and freedom (15%).*  Those really don’t seem like such different favorites, but teens get to have more control over how they manifest their fun.
  • The largest segment of kids wanted to grow up to be teachers (16%), and now they’re more likely to set their sights on a career in computer science (8%).* In today’s e-learning environment, those jobs aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.


Naturally, dashed expectations are disappointing.  A prom dance with Dad isn’t what anyone had in mind. What we’re most proud of is how this class of graduates is embracing the change and coming together in new ways to lift each other up and celebrate these cherished milestones. Students coming up behind them will look to these efforts as groundbreakingly resourceful.

Do you need a dose of hopefulness amid the pandemic?  Talk to a teenager.  They’re inspiring in their achievements and their acceptance of change. And they’re on to something good.

*Source: YouthBeat® Total Year 2009 and 2019

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