A year ago today, the class of 2020 was inching closer to graduation every day. With it came the promise of college commitments, prom, and the graduation ceremony itself. Like every year prior, it was supposed to be a grand affair where seniors celebrate their achievements of the past four years and see their classmates one last time before they go their separate ways. As we all know, though, that isn’t what ended up happening. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that there was no way thousands of people could pack into the Sears Centre in May for a full graduation ceremony.
Understandably, students were incredibly upset. Dozens of Warren students had drive-by graduation parades with their friends and families, trying to celebrate their achievements in high school and their excitement for the future in whatever way they could. Students picked up caps and gowns for a ceremony that likely wasn’t happening. It would have been easy for the school to cancel the event completely, but they went above and beyond in creating some semblance of a graduation for the class of 2020.
Warren Township High School held a ceremony for all graduating seniors on July 12, 2020. Students would drive through the Almond parking lot with their families, and then have the opportunity to take pictures and walk the graduation stage set up in front of the school. When I arrived at the school to report on the event, I was blown away by the effort put into it. The entire area was decorated, teachers sat in the parking lot waiting to see their students graduate, a graduation stage loomed over the entire area, and families were able to see their students walk the stage from the car.
I was lucky enough to speak to several graduating seniors during their graduation ceremony. Generally, everyone seemed to have come to terms with the new normal that the pandemic forced upon them. One of the seniors, Izzy Bogot, admitted that the end of the school year had been a challenge, but viewed the experience as a way to grow. She also expressed how sweet it was that the community came together to celebrate them and that it shows that Warren truly cares about their students.
I also got to talk to students about their time here at Warren. Rebecca Benjamin reflected that since it’s such a large school, it encourages students to concentrate on their passions and goals. On a more personal note, I talked with students taking a variety of different paths after high school. Yet, what they would miss the most stayed largely the same. For most students, it was their friends that they were thinking of during their graduation.
Overall, the students at the ceremony were happy to be having a ceremony at all. Senior Victoria Lara was simply glad to be able to see everyone and do one last thing together. If nothing else, the seniors knew that the rest of their class was going through the same thing, and after months of disappointments and cancellations they were finally able to walk the stage. In fact, some students even preferred this new setup. Rather than having to sit through hours of names, students had to wait only a few minutes to reach their part of the ceremony.
During the course of the pandemic, everyone has had to give up something. For the class of 2020, it happened to be their graduation. Still, with the incredible work of the school and its administrators, those students were able to get a ceremony after all. It might not have looked like what any of us expected, but the seniors got to celebrate with Warren one last time.
This article is part of a three-part series about graduation covering students, teachers and parents, and the administration. Check out Antrita’s article about the school here, and watch out for Emely’s article about teachers and parents coming to our website soon!