EVERY student from MacKillop College lined the footpaths between the senior and junior campuses in Port Macquarie on Wednesday to farewell the class of 2020 one last time.
With a single drummer leading the way, the school's senior cohort were honoured by their peers.
It was a celebration of 13 years of school, but also acknowledgement of the students' resilience and determination to overcome the challenges of 2020.
At Wauchope High School, St Joseph's Regional College, Newman Senior Technical College Hastings Secondary College, Camden Haven High, St Columba Anglican School and Heritage Christian College they celebrated.
In the face of bushfires and COVID-19 and embracing new ways of learning, they did it. And they should be proud.
Graduation ceremonies are being held via Zoom this year in most Port Macquarie-Hastings schools with parents tuning into the awards and celebrations online.
The countdown is now on to the Higher School Certificate (HSC) examinations which will start in term three on October 20 with English.
The exams conclude on November 11 with drama. Under COVID guidelines, all school formals must be held this year after the last HSC exam.
Principals and year advisers praised the efforts of the class of 2020, saying they have triumphed over many challenges in the face of bushfires and COVID-19.
We asked our local high schools to share a final message with their students.
MacKillop Senior College
Principal Cath Eichmann wished all students a life filled with love, learning and laughter.
"To enable and assist each of you to achieve your own personal excellence, to be the best version of yourself, is the goal of every good school.
"My hope is that you have a sense of having thrived in every aspect of your growth as young men and women as much as you have in your learning. As you journey through life, may you reflect on many fond memories of fun and friendship from your school days.
In a tougher year than most you have maintained a sense of humour, displayed resilience, commitment, calmness and courage. Do not underestimate the importance of these skills as you navigate life."
Year 12 leader of pastoral care Andrea Huxley said every student will walk away from their school journey with important life lessons.
"It has been an honour to share the last two years of your schooling journey with you. As I have endeavoured to guide and support you, you have also taught me many lessons.
"Your compassion for others and zest for life has made me smile each and every day and that's something not all adults are able to say about their job.
"I hope that as you continue on life's journey, that you too can find a career that brings you joy and happiness.
"Throughout your life, remember to surround yourself with people who pick you up, not pull you down and who know the true meaning of friendship, loyalty and love.
"Most importantly however, is to make sure you strive to be that person for others."
Wauchope High School
"It might sound trite, but 2020 really has been unprecedented," year 12 advisors at Wauchope High School Tahlia Stewart, Karina Ostler and Mark O'Brien said.
"We had barely recovered from the school closures due to the bushfires during the first term of your HSC, before we were forced to make the sudden move to remote learning due to COVID-19.
"On top of this, many of you have had your own personal struggles to deal with. We have been continually impressed by the hard work and resilience that you have displayed in the face of it all.
"Rather than wish you good luck as you continue the preparation for your HSC examinations, we will hope that the efforts that you have put in will be rewarded. We're going to miss your faces around here."
Mark O'Brien added:
Always do your best
Be humble in victory and gracious in defeat
Have a crack at anything and hit it with pace
Either way you win or learn
Never stop learning
Play for a team
Live a balanced life, and look after your mind, body and soul
And finally, don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
Hastings Secondary College
The principals of Hastings Secondary College Port Macquarie Campus and Hastings Secondary College Westport Campus, Meaghan Cook and Ian Ross send their best wishes to the year 12 cohort 2020.
"It certainly has been a difficult and challenging year where our students have faced many changes and disruptions to their learning as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
"We are privileged to be a significant part of every student's educational journey.
"Before us is an extraordinary group of individuals who have many skills and talents and have demonstrated impressive qualities, including the taking of responsibility for both their educational and social development. Seeing our students develop a vision and then strive to meet that vision makes us, as educators, very proud.
"It is an indicator that Hastings Secondary College will be passing the world on to a generation that is confident and accepting of responsibility.
"Year 12, as you enter the next stage of your journey and tap into your passion and the many opportunities available to you, we will excitedly follow your journey with interest.
"Amongst our cohort, we will have academics, artists, architects, builders, plumbers, public speakers, musicians, chefs, environmentalists, scientists, politicians, athletes ...the list goes on.
"To our mothers, fathers, grandparents and carers, on behalf of the College, we thank you for your integral support and close relationship formed with the College to support not only in your child's HSC year but their 13-year journey with us.
"Our advice to Year 12 going into exams next week is to achieve your own personal best. You have done the hard yards, believe in yourself, the knowledge is there, continue your great study techniques and continue to utilise support from the whole College community.
"Our wish for every Year 12 student is to reflect on the fond memories and friends you have made at Hastings Secondary College, that each road you take, leads you to you to wherever you want to go, that life becomes all you want it to be and that your dreams are big and your worries small.
"We wish you every success."