Montgomery Co. student board member Asante prepares for in-person graduations: ‘It’s surreal’

nate tinbite nick asante
Outgoing Student Board Member Montgomery County Board of Education Nick Asante, right, stands with former student board member Nate Tinbite. (Courtesy Nick Asante)

The Class of 2021 went through an entire year of virtual or hybrid learning, but the members of this year’s high school graduating class in Montgomery County, Maryland, will get something that last year’s didn’t: in-person commencement ceremonies.

Nick Asante, the student member of the Montgomery County Board of Education said he’s been so busy with the swirl of senior class activities — albeit, mostly online — that he hadn’t had a chance to take in the fact that his high school career is coming to an end.

“It hit me the other day — I was all like, ‘This is it. This is my high school experience,'” Asante said.

Asante, who’ll be graduating from Richard Montgomery High School, calls this “the year of resilience” and takes a look at his graduating class’ place in history.

“We are the generation that grew up in the post-9/11 world, with the backdrop of the Parkland shooting. We’re leaving high school as our country struggles to rebuild from a global pandemic, the year that a national insurrection happened,” he said, adding that his class shares a powerful bond as a result.

Graduation ceremonies started Wednesday and will through June 17.

Asante said there’s no comparison of last year’s virtual graduations to this year’s in-person events. While commencements are being held outdoors, and social distancing is evident in seating arrangements, it’s still so much closer to the ceremony he’d always envisioned.

Last year, he said, graduating seniors made the best of drive-by ceremonies with diplomas handed off through car windows.

“Some schools didn’t even have a drive-through thing, they just gave their students zip-loc bags with their graduation materials” he said.

One of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic was a change in how student performance was assessed, including grading policies. Asante was asked if graduating seniors he’s talked to are worried they may not be as prepared for college as they might have been prior to the pandemic.

“There is that kind of worry,” said Asante. “How are we going to adapt to college life, and how are we going to adapt to midterms and finals being a big part of our grade…I think there’s kind of some nerves around that.”

“Personally, I haven’t taken a real exam in two years,” Asante said. International Baccalaureate exams were cancelled this year, and Advanced Placement exams were virtual 45-minute exams in 2020. The last time Asante took a “big culminating exam” was during his sophomore year.

Asante’s future plans include heading off to Cornell University to study applied economics and management with a concentration in finance.

After undergraduate school, he’s considering graduate study with the goal of getting a law degree “and an MBA at the same time” because, after all, he’s a member of the class of ’21, whose students are, as he said, “unstoppable.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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