I am exceptionally proud of the Redbank Valley High School Class of 2020 as well as the teachers, coaches and most importantly, the parents and family who have supported their efforts along the way.

The Redbank Valley School District, and specifically the students have had to overcome some serious obstacles over the past several months due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Along with the usual challenges of growing up, these students have faced the added pressure of the world being turned upside down by a global pandemic. They’ve had to sacrifice proms, senior nights, graduation ceremonies and countless memories while being stuck at home playing Fortnight, making TikTok videos and watching “Tiger King.”

While I am aware that many students and parents are disappointed about missing a “normal” graduation ceremony, I am exceptionally pleased to see the latest press release from the school district with their alternative of a drive-in ceremony at the Redbank Valley Municipal Park. While I realize you can never make everyone happy, I wish to applaud the high school staff and administration including Superintendent Dr. John Mastillo, the School Board, and especially principal Mrs. Amy Rupp who along with her staff spent countless hours organizing a meaningful alternative solution.

I was humbled when my office received a call from Mrs. Rupp asking how we could have the community get involved in supporting the Class of 2020. Specifically, I wanted to draw the public’s attention to several points in the press release which talks about community support and engagement: “After students receive their diploma they will exit the park where a police/fire escort with lead them out of the park.”

As indicated in the above line, our local fire companies, police department and EMS have been invited to escort the graduating class of 2020 from the park and through New Bethlehem. I am wholeheartedly grateful for our local first responders helping to support the Class of 2020. Furthermore, I wish to highlight the following section from the press release: “We are encouraging our community to creatively support our seniors all over the county. We would love to see signs of support and congratulations for the class of 2020 on business signs, billboards, churches, and front yards. We want our seniors to see that our community loves and supports them, and we hope that they see signs of that everywhere they look as they drive to graduation!”

As the aforementioned paragraph indicates, as Mayor of New Bethlehem, I am encouraging our community to show their support by decorating their homes and businesses with congratulatory messages for the Class of 2020 including bulldogs (school mascot) as well as red and white school colors, along with other graduation-themed materials. This community campaign to support the Class of 2020 will begin Monday, May 18 and run over the next several weeks until June 4.

It’s been 15 years since my graduation and I’m proud to be a graduate of Redbank Valley High School. In 2018, I was overwhelmingly blessed with the opportunity to be the commencement speaker — it was a humbling moment to influence the future of our community.

For the Class of 2020, I’ll share a part of my 2018 commencement speech that’s still relevant during the current climate: Your graduation signifies some of the first steps towards living a “Wonderful Life.” No matter where God leads you, no matter where you decide to live, or what path you choose to follow, take pride in your community and give selflessly to others — if you live a life that has greatly enriched the lives of those who surround you, for the betterment of the common good, then you will live a meaningful and rewarding life. Albert Einstein once said “The only life worth living, is a life lived for others.”

Congratulations Class of 2020! May God Bless you, and may God Bless the New Bethlehem area and Redbank Valley community.

GORDON BARROWS

Mayor,

New Bethlehem

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