Class of 2020: Celebrations Like Never Before

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The high school seniors of 2020 missed so much, thanks to a global pandemic and a lot of uncertainty.

Everything changed course so abruptly that this class didn’t really get closure on their entire school experience. Instead of a spring calendar filled with proms, sporting events and study groups for final exams – students were sent home to learn online. After a couple weeks of postponements, online lessons turned into finishing the school year from home; many students hadn’t even gotten to say goodbye to classmates or teachers. And forget about passing around yearbooks. But, resilient creatures we are – and blessed with the ability to leverage technology, gumption and inspiration – many cities, towns and school administrations found some innovative ways to make their Class of 2020 Graduation ceremonies memorable and special.

  • Here in Bentonville, the new high school's first graduating class was honored with their senior pictures posted along the perimeter of the school and students participated in a parade to mark the milestone.
    4029 parade BWHS(photo: KHBS 40/29 news)
  • In Alabama, Phenix City graduations were broken into 5 different ceremonies, so students could experience walking for their diplomas in socially distanced groups of less than 100. Their families looked on while wearing masks and sitting safely distanced from other families in the stands.
  • In Florida, students from two schools were able to celebrate their graduation on the Daytona Speedway finish line.
  • Tampa Students participated in a graduation car parade, decorating their vehicles and driving through the school campus where their families and teachers cheered and waved signs with messages to outgoing seniors.
  • As only Key West can, the dozen or so graduates of Somerset Island preparatory school participated in a VERY social-distanced graduation ceremony – receiving their diplomas on jet skis.
  • In Iowa, Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha students received diploma deliveries in their driveways for individual cap and gown ceremonies, in addition to hosting graduation parades for their students.
  • In Arizona, some ceremonies were held virtually, featuring telepresence robots (also known as avatar robots). Whaaaaaat?
  • And for a special commencement ceremony, NBC chipped in to host a celebrity-studded virtual event for the more than 3 million high school seniors in the US, called Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020.

There are hundreds more examples of innovation across the country, and it’s amazing to see how people dug in and found ways to change the status quo or use technology to do something special for our graduates. In these off-kilter days, bringing a smile to those bright young faces is worth a million bucks ... even if they are hidden behind masks right now.

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