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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

EDHS’s drive-up graduation offered students a chance to celebrate

Madison Buhler receives her diploma during the EDHS drive-up graduation.

by Sylene Argent

Administration at Essex District High School got creative this year to ensure the graduating students had some way to celebrate their achievement of completing their secondary education, while following COVID-19 guidelines.

  Last Friday, students were able to participate in a “drive-up” graduation, where they were able to pull up to the school’s front entrance, and hop out of their vehicles to take a socially distanced photo with the school’s Principal and Vice Principal, donning the traditional cap and gown. 

  The drive-up photo area featured a stage, adorned with plants and shrubs loaned from Lakeshore Landscaping, which, in spite of the steady rain, provided a beautiful backdrop for the photos.

  Leading up to graduation day, staff at EDHS convened a student panel for input, and canvassed all grads by issuing online surveys for thoughts on components to include. Through this, they prepared for many possible scenarios, depending on what they would be allowed to do for the big day.

  When it became apparent that a full, in-person graduation ceremony would not be possible, and in order to maintain mandated safety requirements, a drive-up photo opportunity for graduates was organized. In addition, a virtual ceremony video was pre-recorded and released that night.

  “We know that this was a challenging year for all our students. Our graduating class made many sacrifices, but remained positive, compassionate, and kind in the face of myriad challenges and disappointments. I am grateful we were given the opportunity to provide a positive experience for them to close out the year,” Principal Sash Querbach added.

  The Rain-or-Shine event ran smoothly, with approximately140 of our 170 graduates taking advantage of this opportunity for a photo outside the school.

  “While it wasn’t the ideal end to a year filled with challenges, uncertainty, and constant change, we hope it provided some positive closure as our graduates move on to the next stage of their lives as young adults entering a world in which they will ‘Make a Difference!’ This past school year is a testament to the resilience, tenacity, and dedication possessed by our Class of 2021, Vice Principal, Ron Ricci, said.

  Class valedictorian, Caleb Brockman, said he was happy with the drive-up graduation arrangement, noting it was the best that could be done, given the circumstances.

  He said it was nice to see teachers and administrations one last time, from his vehicle. The whole process, he added, was smooth, as students were given a timeslot to participate.

  “It was well done. It was organized, for sure,” Brockman said, noting when students pulled in, they were given a graduation class t-shirt and convocation booklet.

  Instead of the “pretend diploma,” which is typically a rolled-up blank piece of paper and handed out as a prop for photo taking, Brockman said the piece held the school motto and signatures from the school’s Principal and Vice Principal, “Which was kind of neat.”

  Brockman, as class valedictorian, said he received a lot of positive feedback from classmates in regards to the valedictory address he prepared for the virtual graduation video. In his speech, he previously noted he wanted to send a message of hope to his peers and they prepare for whatever comes next for them, after high school. He also wanted them to remain positive.

  “It made me feel good about it. I was happy with how it turned out.”

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