FHS Improvises In-Person Graduations for Its Seniors

Each+senior%27s+graduation+experience+was+made+special+through+new+ceremony+additions+such+as+walking+under+the+inflatable+falcon+with+their+parents+to+well-known+traditions+such+as+walking+across+the+bridge+and+onto+the+stage.+

Reza Marvashti

Each senior's graduation experience was made special through new ceremony additions such as walking under the inflatable falcon with their parents to well-known traditions such as walking across the bridge and onto the stage.

Rachel Singleton, Editor-in-Chief

From the moment they enter the high school doors as a freshman, students dream of the day they will walk across the stage in their cap and gown and receive their hard-earned diploma. This year, as seniors faced losing this ritual due to the coronavirus outbreak, the FHS community came together in order to give its seniors their last hurrah before they turned to the next chapter in their life. 

FHS held graduation outside on the football field over a four day period, and safety was of the utmost priority. Hand sanitizer was stationed in various locations, and staff personnel was well-equipped with latex gloves. Staff was also given custom falcon masks made by assistant principal Colleen Robson and her daughters who made a total of 130 masks for the ceremony over a five day period and have made a total of 450 masks to date. Social distancing was not taken lightly as the school prohibited groups of 10 or more in one location. 

Arriving at appointment times spaced five minutes apart, the graduate and close family stepped into the stadium with their eyes on the prize. After siblings moved to the viewing area 40-50 yards from the stage, the parents and the graduate made their way through an inflatable falcon, down the bright red track and over the bridge, taking their final steps to their future. 

With smiles and tears, joy and sadness, graduates advanced to the stage and claimed the diploma symbolizing their 12-13 years of hard work leading up to the moment. Next, seniors captured the moment with a family photo and then received a class photo and t-shirt. Principal Kriag Kelican said that all things considered, he believes they had a successful, meaningful ceremony. “Each student was individually recognized and had their moment in the spotlight. In some ways it was more intimate for the graduate since they were the only one being recognized and the focus was all on them,” said Kelican. “We have received an overwhelming number of compliments from students, parents and others about how well organized it was, and how much the school did for the graduates.” 

When seniors found out that they would not participate in a traditional ceremony, they had mixed emotions. “We didn’t have to wait for hours for everyone to be called, but it was also sad because I didn’t get the proper goodbye I wanted,” said senior Grace Murphy. 

Despite some disappointment, seniors still found joy in the fact that they made it to this moment. Senior Harrison Savignac said, “Knowing that graduation wasn’t going to be normal was something that I had plenty of time to think about and deal with, and as much as I wish that graduation was normal, I still felt excited knowing I would be able to walk across the stage.”

Senior Cassie Nelson described the experience as bittersweet. “It was so different than what I’d been imagining for my whole school career. I still thought it was a really nice ceremony though, and I’m grateful we even got to do something like that since a lot of schools didn’t.”

Even with restrictions on the celebration options, graduates and their families still found their own way to celebrate. Nelson woke up to surprise graduation balloons from her family and then ordered food and cake for the happy day. Senior Ian Torelli dined in Old Town with his family in celebration, and Savignac treated himself to Chick-Fil-A for breakfast. 

Parents had many positive comments following the ceremony. Senior Macy Major’s parent Jennifer Major said that the hard work of the staff and administration will never be forgotten, and she appreciated their perseverance. “This revamped ceremony provided a more personal experience for each graduate,” said Major. “Extended family or family which could not attend were able to view online in real-time which allowed our family to still participate and “be there” with Macy, a fantastic addition.”

Despite the different ceremony, parents continued to enjoy their child’s milestone as if it was a normal graduation. Senior Faith Jones’ parent Quentin Jones said, “It was a joy to watch her cross the stage to me and get her diploma.” He added, “It’s something you dream of for 18 years, to see your child graduate, and it happened. We are very thankful for the graduation that was given during this unprecedented time.” 

Without the ability to experience all the traditional spring senior year activities due to the pandemic, the school made sure to do everything in their power to celebrate the seniors and make them feel special. FHS held a special senior yearbook pick up day, gave out graduation yard signs, provided Carousel ice cream, posted all each graduates photo on the front school windows, published the class photo as well as individual photos in the local paper, gave out gold dollar coins, recognized individuals on their achievements over social media and held a senior parade in Old Town.

Despite not having an audience or the ability to sit with their classmates, Kelican said he believes the seniors appreciated the efforts put towards the ceremony and celebration. “All things considered, I think it was a success and the class of 2020 created a legacy like no other class in FHS history,” said Kelican. “This is something they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Videos of the graduation ceremonies can be found on the FHS Graduation LIVE Youtube channel.