No classes, social distancing and a pandemic have meant a very different senior experience for the Wayne County High School Class of 2020. There was no traditional graduation ceremony, no senior prom or other gatherings to celebrate the milestone.

    Instead, educators, parents and members of the community have found 
other ways to help the graduates celebrate this year. There are 
numerous signs in yards and windows around the community. A virtual 
graduation was held last week, allowing seniors to walk across the 
stage in the school's gymnasium, and on Friday, May 22, members of 
the class will participate in a Graduation Parade along Main Street.
    "Talk about taking lemons and turning them into lemonade," said 
Linda Jones, who is the Wayne County Schools Public Relations 
Coordinator. "Principal Justin Alley desperately wanted to honor his 
seniors' wishes to walk across the stage for graduation, so he made 
it happen. It took a lot of planning to pull it off, but in the end, 
Mr. Alley called out each senior's name and they walked across the 
stage and picked up their diploma. Their families had front row seats 
to the event in a much more intimate setting than usual."
    A rotation of high school staff assisted with the event by being 
positioned at safe distances apart. The seniors and their families 
pulled up in the parking lot at designated times over a three day 
period. They were called up to the entrance of the gym, one family at 
a time.
    When they entered the lobby, everyone was clad in masks and the 
seniors signed their names on a banner.
    "The families could not have been more gracious in abiding by the 
guidelines set out ahead of time, in observing social distancing and 
wearing masks," said Jones. "In fact, they were very appreciative 
that their graduate could participate in the unique ceremony."
    After walking across the stage, seniors and their families got to 
participate in a photo booth to remember the occasion before exiting 
the gym.
    Alley, along with teacher Jason Kennett and his brother, James 
Kennett, also created another special "senior memory" with their song 
"2020 Forever Strong." It was written for the Class of 2020 and has 
been airing on local radio stations for the past couple of weeks.
    "The idea for the song came as I pondered how my son and his 
classmates were actually feeling about the whole situation," said 
Jason Kennett. "Some of my most vivid memories  of high school are 
those that surrounded the end of our senior year. Some of my dearest 
friends today are those who went through that with me. We ended high 
school just as we started kindergarten—together."
    Kennett said this class is very special to him for many different 
    "Being that my awesome son is a part of it makes it personal, but 
the fact that this was my last group of students that I taught as 
freshmen in political science makes it very emotional as well. I was 
around every one o these students in some capacity before accepting 
my current job with WCLA."
    Alley noted that this song allowed the group to so something special 
for this year's seniors.
    "Jason has a senior and obviously I spend a great deal of time with 
the kids, so it is special for both of us. We hope the graduates find 
some part of this message helpful," said Alley. "This will always be 
part of them, but it certainly doesn't define them. Graduation is a 
special time for all, but they don't graduate for anyone but 
themselves. Nothing changes about the potential to go in the world 
and be a success story and inspiration."
    Kennett added, "This is a very important beginning. Decisions these 
young men and women make in the next few short years will greatly 
affect the remainder of their life. We want them to know that we 
definitely ‘have their backs' and will continue to do what is best for them."

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