Tune into CNN this Saturday at 7 p.m. ET for a two-hour special honoring the Class of 2020, featuring celebrities and former US presidents. More details here.
Pomp and pandemic circumstances.
The new normal is forcing school administrators to get creative for upcoming graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020.
Many schools across the country are holding virtual events or drive-through celebrations or postponing their ceremonies until later in the summer in hopes of having them in person. But some schools are finding safe ways to make sure the show goes on.
Hanover Area High School in Pennsylvania is taking their cue straight from Hollywood. They are turning their 141 graduating seniors into big-screen stars for the night and are hosting the ceremony at the Garden Drive-in Theater. Students and their families will watch from their cars as prerecorded speeches, photo slide shows and individual acknowledgments project onto the theater’s screen. After the ceremony, the drive-in is allowing everyone to stick around for a free new release movie.
“This will be the most memorable graduation in school district history,” said superintendent Nathan Barrett. “Next year will probably be pretty vanilla.”
Crossing the finish line
Speedway High School in Indiana, meanwhile, will have about 125 of their graduating seniors racing toward the finish line. The school, located just a few blocks from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indianapolis 500, will give out their diplomas at the racetrack’s famous “Yard of Bricks” finish line. Each student and their family will be allowed one car, in which they will get to drive onto the speedway and get out at the finish line to receive their diploma.
“For us, it was just a neat way to help the kids in the town celebrate in a year where celebrating looks completely different,” said Doug Boles, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The racetrack and the school have a long history together. Every year the school opens up their parking lot to Indy 500 race fans. With the race, originally scheduled for May 24, having its brakes put on until August, the speedway is taking the opportunity to open their lanes to their neighbors.
“On race day, you look forward to seeing that one driver cross the Yard of Bricks, drink the glass of milk and celebrate,” Boles said. “But this May, we’ll have about 125 winners getting to celebrate with their diplomas.”
In its 111-year history, this will be the first graduation ceremony for the famed racetrack. It’ll be a memorable way to mark an important life milestone and a fitting place for the class of 2020 Speedway “Sparkplugs” to wave the checkered flag on their high school careers.
Not all schools are going for marquee events, however. Dohn Community High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, is scaling things back and making it more personal.
Director Ramone Davenport and his staff are heading to each graduating senior’s home and hand delivering diplomas. With over 200 expected graduates, the process will likely continue well into the summer. But Davenport says the 15 to 20 personal graduations held so far have been such a hit that the school might rethink the traditional ceremony in the future.
“This might be something that Dohn High School just does. You know, once you come to Dohn and graduate, we’re going to bring the diploma to you,” said Davenport. “In a traditional graduation, you call a person’s name and they walk across the stage. This is more personal. I’m spending seven or eight minutes talking directly to that kid about their accomplishments and the families are right there on the lawn. They’re getting a little more bang for their buck.”
Davenport said that for Dohn students, where around 98% live at or below the poverty line, this event is especially meaningful.
“There’s a whole different type of circumstances and obstacles. These kids deserve to be recognized. This is one step further for them and once they can feel that accomplishment, it’s going to drive that kid to go on to the next level.”
For seniors like Tasean Moore, who says he spent 18 months in jail after fighting back for being bullied, graduating is a new beginning.
“I feel amazing. This is the best thing ever,” said Moore, who plans to go to college. “I just want to start a new life and be successful.”