Friday, May 29, 2020

Windham High plans non-traditional events for 2020 graduates

By Elizabeth Richards

High schools across the state are finding creative ways to celebrate graduation and Windham High School is no exception.  This year’s graduation ceremony will be a small personal experience, but students will then have an opportunity to be together in a safe way as they gather at a drive-in theater.

WHS principal Ryan Caron said the school had hoped to have a video celebration now and hold an actual outdoor graduation ceremony in late summer. When state guidelines for August continued to limit gatherings to 50 people, those plans needed to change.   

Individual graduation ceremonies for 2020 graduates at Windham
 High School will be filmed and then shown
 to students and their families at the Saco Drive-In
 in Saco on June 9 with a rain date scheduled for June 10.
While some schools chose student-centered plans and others were more family focused, Windham developed a two-part plan that allows for both.

“We tried to find the best of both situations, given the limitations.  An opportunity for family to be involved, and also the opportunity for the kids to be together, even if they’re separated by cars,” Caron said.

During the first week in June, students will have an individualized ceremony, by appointment, in the WHS auditorium. A small group of family and friends will be allowed to attend this ceremony. 

Caron said that graduating students will wear caps and gowns and be announced, then walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, awards and scholarships. Photos and video will be taken of these individual ceremonies.

WHS senior Jessica Brooks said she thinks that the school is offering a great option in difficult circumstances. 

Many students were worried that there wouldn’t be any celebration at all, she said.

“Although not being all together for this is disappointing, for a lack of better words, I’m just glad we get the experience to walk across the stage,” Brooks said. “I’m also really glad that family and friends were able to be invited. I relied on my friends and family a lot the last four years, and I was worried they would not be able to be by my side for this accomplishment.”

Following these individual ceremonies, Caron said, a video will be made that includes many elements of a traditional graduation, such as speeches and a class song.  This video will then be shown to students and families at the Saco Drive-In on June 9, with a rain date of June 10. 

Caron said that feedback has been positive, even as people wish they could do something bigger.

“Everybody’s been really understanding,” he said. 

Some families have expressed concern about safety and have told the school they are unlikely to participate. 

Diplomas and gift bags will be mailed to these students, Caron said.

“We’re trying to respect everybody and make it as personalized an experience as we can,” he said.

The attention and concern for everyone is appreciated.

I think given the circumstances Windham has made the best of a tough situation. It is definitely apparent to me that our teachers and administrators truly care about their students,” said WHS senior Anthony Gugliuzza. “The way in which they have handled these past few months is incredible. It’s a huge testament to who they are as people.”

The drive-in night allows students to be honored in the best way possible, Brooks said, “I’m really happy to be a part of a district that is trying so hard to accommodate everyone as best as possible and make light of a pretty dark situation,” she said. “This graduation is definitely going to be one for the books, and it will be a story and experience we are able to share with younger generations, but I truly hope no one has to face these circumstances again.”

Although the traditional Project Graduation event was canceled, according to Sarah Elliott, chair of the school’s Project Graduation Committee 2020, said they’re planning to do something to bring students back together in late May or early June 2021.

The Project Grad committee also partnered with the school and local business to have lawn signs made up for all seniors. In conjunction with that, they held their last fundraiser, allowing friends, family, teachers, students, and community members to send personal messages to seniors.

These signs and messages were distributed on Friday, May 22 and Tuesday, May 26.

Arrangements can be made for any seniors who were not able to pick these up at those times.

Elliot said it was a touching experience to see the time and thought people put into the messages they sent. 

She said that the event next year is a way to give students an opportunity to be together one last time, when social distancing is more relaxed.  While it is uncertain what the event will be, Elliot said that they want to keep it similar in spirit to what they would have done originally while keeping it more local.

“We want to include as many graduates as possible,” Elliott said.

An Instagram page has been set up to continue communication throughout the year and as the event draws closer, she said.

To arrange sign pick-up and for more information, contact Elliott at <

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