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
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
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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