BELMAR — Nearly three months of self-isolation and at-home instruction has upended what was supposed to be a year of celebration for graduating seniors at St. Rose High School.
Teachers, administrators and members of the St. Rose Parent Teacher Association [PTA] were determined not to end the year without finding some way to honor students’ accomplishments.
Taking social distancing into account, students were invited to, one-by-one, drive up to St. Rose High School to pick up their cap and gowns, St. Rose lawn signs and senior gifts, T-shirt and mug on Tuesday, May 19. The students were greeted by a socially-distanced crowd that cheered them on with music and a photo shoot in front of the school.
“We wanted to do something special for our seniors, and they need to get their cap and gown and all of their senior items,” John Tonero, principal of St. Rose High School, said. He spent the day cheering on seniors who drove past the school, welcoming them back.
While many high schools have canceled their graduation ceremonies or decided to hold virtual ones, Mr. Tonero said that the school is committed to hold a live graduation at a later date. The school had conducted a poll of seniors and parents, who opted to have a live graduation or a virtual one.
On June 2, the day that the graduation ceremony was expected to take place, the school is planning to hold a special event for seniors.
“It will be a simple ceremony with dignity,” he said.
Students were showered with praises as they walked out of their cars in front of the high school, and had school staff snap photos of them at the entrance of the school.
Also adding to the festivities, students decorated their cars with messages like “St. Rose Class of 2020” and “Congratulations Class of 2020.”
“It’s difficult to get used to, but after going through the process it kind of made it easier,” Nolan Boehmcke, a senior at St. Rose High School who pulled up to the school to receive his items, said. “It’s pretty exciting and it makes me feel a lot better about this year’s graduation.”
Some members of the St. Rose PTA were on hand to celebrate with students. Lisa Clayton, the president of the association, has a child who is in this year’s graduating class and understands how students must feel having their last year of high school taken from them due to the virus.
“It is special. It’s not ideal but it is a great little tribute to the seniors who really got wrapped up in this pandemic and it gives them the opportunity to live out their senior rites,” she said. “The school has been wonderful with trying to do things to make little things like this special for the kids. It’s a rite of passage to be a senior and I think what is sad is that they don’t get that rite of passage.”
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