“Antrita Sai Durga Manduva,” the announcer reads. On cue, I walk across the stage sporting my robe and cape, and I shake hands with Mr. Parrott and the school officials after I receive my diploma.
I am from Warren’s Class of 2021 – a senior this year – and this is how I imagine my graduation. It is the traditional ceremony, with the choir and band, the graduation speeches that bore yet excite, the whole build-up to rehearsals, and then unique to Warren: the nearly 1000 classmates around me. This is the traditional graduation experience.
At Warren, this experience is created by the Sears Centre, where the ceremony is normally held, Jostens, who supplies the jewelry and advertises a little too much, and a no-final second semester for most seniors who receive the proper grades.
However, the experience of the seniors who graduated as Warren’s Class of 2020 was not this, because of the COVID-19 pandemic that the better part of their second semester was set in. If not for a pandemic, their ceremony would’ve been attended at the Sears Centre at Hoffman Estates on Sunday, May 17, 2020, but the situation demanded a creative alternative from the school board. This came in the form of a drive-through graduation on Sunday, July 12, 2020 at the Almond Campus.
In a three-post series that discusses the students, teachers, and the school’s preparation for and perspective on the graduation ceremony, this post will cover the school’s side.
Find Anushka’s post about the students here, and keep an eye out for Emely’s upcoming post on the teachers.
The preparation for graduation included a plethora of email reminders from Mr. Parrott and the district superintendent Dr. Ahlgrim sent out to the community. The school held a drive-through/curbside cap and gown distribution on May 27-28, and each student’s bag was individualized with honor cords, honor society cords, yearbook/creations magazine, Jostens jewelry, and a surprise gift from the senior class board to each member of the Class of 2020. Students were assigned a time slot based on their last names during which they were expected to attend the drive-through graduation, and the Almond parking lot area turned into six “zones” to accommodate the process. The school provided pictures to explain the process and revamped their website (especially the graduation page) to group all the information, as shown below.
Come graduation day, everything was set. As seniors pulled up to Almond in their decorated cars, they were directed towards the staff parking lot (“Zone B”). There would be a line of cars curving their way towards zones “C” and “D”, and at zone D, students would get out of their cars and, all styled up with masks on, make their way inside through the Black Box entrance as their families in the car cheered them on.
Inside, the students were met with a row of desks, where they were to indicate their name to the staff at the desk so that the staff could run down the information to the announcer and line the graduating senior in order of announcement. Once checked in, the seniors took their graduation pictures and strolled down the main hallway one last time as students, before reaching Mrs. Kirk, who was to give them the green signal to walk outside and down the stage. Then, they waited as their peers’ names were announced and theirs was just a few letters away. The proud parents and families, after dropping off their seniors, made their way down to the main entrance where the school had set up a stage for seniors to walk down.
The announcer reads, “Blue Devil,” and the crowd goes wild. The now Warren alum makes their way down the stage and to their parents, where they take their pictures. In less than an hour, their drive-in, parade-style graduation ceremony is complete. Additionally, the school gathered together a “senior slideshow”, which was released on the school’s website at 8:20 AM, the virtual commencement ceremony, which premiered at 5:00 PM, and the community-wide 20-second cheer at 8:20 PM.
Despite the setback with the pandemic, the school managed to organize a graduation ceremony that was just as good, if not better, than the traditional one. As a student of the Class of 2021, I can’t help but wonder how my graduation ceremony will look like, and honestly, I wouldn’t mind if it were like my seniors’.
Works Cited (Links):
1: Important Information Letter about Cap and Gown