Seniors at ADHS have unique graduation and recognition opportunities with COVID-19

Trena+Kirby+cheers+on+students+during+the+cap+and+gown+pickup.+Picture+taken+by+Elizabeth+Luna.

Trena Kirby cheers on students during the cap and gown pickup. Picture taken by Elizabeth Luna.

Amena Matcheswala, Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the school year for seniors graduating in 2020 with many disappointing results, but the community at Athens Drive has not let that stop them from giving seniors the great sendoff they deserve. Alternative methods of graduation, senior awards, and senior recognition will be organized by administrators including Stephen Mares, principal. 

The caps and gowns distributed to seniors could not be done in person as usual, but May 8, a drive through cap and gown event was set up instead. Students drove through Athens parking lots to receive their caps and gowns, bolstered by the support of many staff members present wielding encouraging signs. Senior Kyla Norris said, “The cap and gown drive through was overwhelmingly beautiful, and I definitely teared up. It meant a lot that even though none of this year has been a ‘traditional’ senior year that teachers were still so supportive and doing what they could to make us feel special. It was so precious and I loved it so much.”

Additionally, in recognition of each senior, a drive around the track took place June 8 where seniors had their names announced as they drove around the Jags stadium. Due to weather, this date was moved back from the original date, May 20. Seniors had the opportunity to decorate their cars and see their favorite Athens staff while being recognized for their 12 years of academic achievement. 

Although graduation will not be the same as usual this year, Athens has still found a way to make it special. The event will span three days starting June 10 with a traditional graduation ceremony including speeches and calling of names, although it was broadcasted online. Diplomas will be picked up alphabetically June 11 and June 12. This will allow students the opportunity to get pictures and still have great memories from their graduation.

Schools worldwide have been forced to seek alternative graduations, with some very creative outcomes. Athens seniors have their own bold ideas about what this unique graduation should look like. 

Senior Ava Darden said, “I’ve seen multiple schools kind of placing their students six feet apart on a football field, but I also recognize that that’s kind of difficult in our current state so I think I’m ok with some kind of recognition like the one taking place next Wednesday, where the seniors circle the track in cars and have their names called out. Just something to get out and see everybody in person with social distancing.” 

Senior Kerene Kiatoko said, “I think it will be great if Wake County could allow us to have graduation at the stadium, there’s more space for everybody, or we could just wait until fall so we can all walk the stage.” 

Senior Mohamed Ismail said, “Honestly I just want my diploma but I think TMSA is still having a stage and they’re just going up one by one so there’s that.”

“While my heart is heavy for our seniors with the numerous milestones and rights-of-passage events that they are missing, this is certainly something that they will never forget…We will remember the Class of 2020 forever and what they lost and how we adjusted to the new reality of COVID-19 health restrictions and limitations…I hope they feel the love that all of us have for them as we have tried to make the best of the situation and honor and celebrate the Class of 2020 in new and positive ways,” shared Principal Stephen Mares as words of encouragement for this year’s seniors.