Graduation in Isolation

What are local schools doing in an attempt to replicate a traditional graduation?

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What a typical graduation in 2020 looks like.

The rite of passage of a high school graduate usually entails a mess of cars, loud cheering echoing throughout a packed football stadium, at least one red-faced senior, embarrassed from tripping off the stage, and, of course, the infamous cap throwing. 

With stipulations such as observing social distancing rules and gatherings including no more than 25 people, prototypical graduation cannot be achieved. 

In such a strange time, change is inevitable. When plan A doesn’t work, plans B and C are instituted. But what are plans B and C, and how are schools in our area making their best efforts to replicate a proper graduation?

Lia Polcyn, a Seneca Valley senior, explained the approach her school was taking. A few weeks ago, the parents were sent an email that included a variety of ways for seniors to receive their diplomas. 

The first option was for the family of the graduate to drive a course around campus, surrounded by the administration and eventually end up in front of the senior high. The graduate would then walk across a makeshift stage, while their family watched from a safe distance in the car. 

“The next two options,” Polcyn said, “didn’t seem like much of a graduation at all.” The school also offered that diplomas be sent to homes by mail or teachers would be sent to deliver them to the house of each student. 

After parents and students were given the option to vote on their favorite idea, they came to a consensus on the fourth and final option. The family and student will drive around the campus and eventually arrive at the football stadium, where each graduate will walk down to the center of the field, one at a time, to accept their diploma. 

This graduation will take place over the course of two days in alphabetical order, and families will be able to watch from afar, at the top of the stadium’s bleachers. 

Additionally, Seneca Valley is filming the event, which is going to be compiled into a video, along with the speeches of the valedictorian, salutatorian, and chosen third speaker. 

Seneca Valley also explained their desire to host an additional event at the end of July, whether it be a more authentic commencement, prom, or another type of celebration. 

Polcyn reflects on the way her senior year is ending “It is better than what could have been done, but it still feels like a piece is missing.”

It is better than what could have been done, but it still feels like a piece is missing.”

— Lia Polcyn

Here on our home turf, North Allegheny is hosting the senior banquet on June 5th, virtually. On June 12th, the original planned date for graduation, there will be an online senior celebration.

North Allegheny is planning on doing traditional graduation on July 17th to allow all seniors and their families to honor the class of 2020 and their accomplishments in a more customary way. 

Megan Wilson, North Allegheny senior, expressed her hopes of getting to take graduation pictures with her friends, recreating a pose they have repeatedly captured throughout high school, as well as have her family watch her walk on stage and receive her diploma. 

Wilson says “I want to have a somewhat normal ending to a crazy senior year. This is definitely a year I will not forget.”

I want to have a somewhat normal ending to a crazy senior year. This is definitely a year I will not forget.”

— Megan Wilson

Over at Mars High School, senior Luke Vasilj expounds upon the approach his school is taking. 

Similar to North Allegheny, Mars is trying their best to provide seniors with a traditional graduation sometime later in the summer as well as a makeshift graduation closer to the last day of school. 

Mars is having each senior, along with their family, park in every other space of the senior high’s parking lot. 

From there, the seniors will each be presented with their diploma and proceed to do a promenade around the parking lot, walking past each parked car, so that all of the students can see each other in their cap and gown. 

Vasilj says “I’m not too upset because I know it’s not anyone’s fault, but a part of me still wishes we could have a traditional graduation.”

I’m not too upset because I know it’s not anyone’s fault, but a part of me still wishes we could have a traditional graduation.”

— Luke Vasilj

Despite the initial concerns and disappointment regarding the graduation of the class of 2020, there, too, have been some personal touches and recognitions that have made it memorable in ways that traditional graduations have not. 

North Allegheny organized a parade of teachers around neighborhoods in the district to celebrate the class of 2020 and all of their accomplishments. 

NA also sponsored a variety of virtual activities such as senior spirit week and a senior send-off from the teachers. This way, senior Megan Wilson says, “seniors can remember all the good times we had throughout highschool instead of focusing on the less than ideal ending to it.” 

Seneca Valley had students’ past teachers hand deliver their caps and gowns to their front door. 

Many schools in the area have also planted congratulatory signs in the yards of seniors. 

With safety as their main priority, schools in our area are taking different measures to ensure that the senior class feels appreciated and honored as they enter the next phases of their lives. While the circumstances are anything but ideal, the senior class of 2020 will always be remembered.