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Scenes from West Valley High School’s graduation ceremony Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at West Valley High School in Yakima, Wash.

It’s been all over our pages the past few days, and we couldn’t be prouder:

Graduation season has returned to the Yakima Valley.

The pictures we’ve been running from our talented photographers show faces streaming with joyful tears, hugs that are a little bit tighter than they might’ve been in previous years, and smiles so big they show through facemasks.

Yes, from Sunnyside to Ellensburg and all points in between, many of the ceremonies, speeches and traditions that send our high school seniors on to the next phase of their lives are back. The COVID-19 pandemic might not be over, but vaccines and more than a year of onerous safety precautions have it on the run, at least.

To say it’s been a long wait is a laughable understatement.

Much of the Class of 2021 endured a senior year of virtual learning from home and had to kiss most extracurricular activities goodbye. They still had to keep up their grades, but working with teachers or discussing academic subjects with their classmates was limited to what they could pull from computer screens.

That’s a lot to ask of anybody, let alone kids, who typically should be enjoying some of the most carefree, socially oriented days of their youth in their final year of high school. No talking with their friends at lunch, laughing in the halls between classes. No dances, no sports, no band practice.

It was no picnic for the Class of 2020, either. That group missed out on in-person graduation celebrations altogether, settling for caravans of cheering parents and friends driving past front porches, diplomas being dropped off at front doors or livestreaming congratulatory videos.

But this June is different.

Schools are staging graduation ceremonies in gyms with safety-conscious bleacher seating — or outdoors. Davis and Eisenhower high schools are hosting graduations in open-air Zaepfel Stadium, forgoing the Yakima Valley SunDome for the first time in years.

There’ll be more pictures, more hugs. Long commencement speeches, followed by caps filling the air like migrating birds.

And after all, it is sort of a migration. Because of its tenacity, creativity and patience, the Class of ’21 is ready to spread its wings — just as the Class of ’20 did, despite the lack of fanfare at the time.

All these students proved they have the determination to bust through more obstacles than most previous classes have ever faced.

Their triumphs should be encouraging to all of us. Because if they can handle what they’ve just been through as adeptly as they have, imagine the things they’ll achieve as they enter adulthood.

Like we said, we couldn’t be prouder.