The year 2020 has taught St. Louisans a major lesson in resilience, our many local high school graduates included. In the wake of countless cancellations and postponements, schools of all sizes wanted to ensure their students’ accomplishments still would be recognized. Many of them got creative and designed new kinds of ceremonies to make sure everyone felt celebrated.
Yeshivat Kadimah High School
Rabbi Daniel Freund, principal, says a small outdoor ceremony with immediate family members worked well for the school’s six graduating seniors. “We knew that friends and other relatives would want to celebrate as well, though,” he says. “We shot a video of the ceremony and added prerecorded elements like student activities and interviews, photos, tributes from staff members, encouraging thoughts from friends and relatives, and family memories.” The video was livestreamed several days later.
Freund says many families actually preferred the smaller, more personal ceremony. “They really enjoyed the intimate approach,” he explains. “Also, there were parts of the video that the graduates didn’t know we were adding, so that was a pleasant surprise for them.” Students decorated their cars and front yards before the event, and after the video aired, they celebrated with a drive-through ice cream party at the school.preferred the smaller, more personal ceremony. “They really enjoyed the intimate approach,” he explains. “Also, there were parts of the video that the graduates didn’t know we were adding, so that was a pleasant surprise for them.” Students decorated their cars and front yards before the event, and after the video aired, they celebrated with a drive-through ice cream party at the school.
Westminster Christian Academy
Dani Butler, head of student development, says the school employed strategic social distancing to pull off its graduation festivities. “Our ceremony was rescheduled for Aug. 3, so we had an evening event on the football field to avoid the heat,” she says. “We set up a stage and sat graduates and faculty six feet apart. Each of the 170 families was allowed up to five guests, and the groups also were seated apart from each other on the bleachers.”
Butler says the school’s alumni choir recorded music to make the gathering extra special. Although the traditional post-ceremony reception had to be canceled, graduates and their families still enjoyed receiving special gifts afterward. “Everyone loved the big outdoor event,” she notes. “Students said they felt blessed to have it on campus where most had spent their six years.”
Parkway South High School
Assistant principal Angie Pappas-Muyco says students got into the spirit of graduation with a variety of socially distanced activities. “The celebrations started with a parade through Manchester and the school parking lot,” she says. “It seemed like such a long time since we had seen the kids at spring break, so everyone was very excited!” Instead of the usual large ceremony, the school planned a series of mini-graduations where groups of students processed through the gym and received their diplomas from family members. “Parents were grateful to have such a special, personal event for their kids,” Pappas-Muyco says. “In a year full of cancellations and restrictions, they finally were able to get some closure.”
The school also held an elaborate ‘virtual graduation’ complete with tributes and speeches from staff and teachers. Throughout the whole experience, Pappas-Muyco says students rose to the occasion and kept a positive attitude. “I was very impressed with them,” she notes. “It really affirmed that our young people are strong and resilient.”