Graduates get their day

By Ruthann Carr

In the midst of fresh air, blue skies cheering families and sage advice, the Fluvanna County High School class of 2020 graduated Saturday (June 13).

It included dignitaries, speeches, handing out diplomas and turning of tassels but instead of sitting in chairs on the football field, students sat in cars in the parking lot.

The brainchild of Fluvanna High School Principal Margo Bruce and a graduation committee, the safely distanced rite of passage went off without a hitch.

“It was organized and personal,” Bruce said right after the ceremony. “So many students told me, ‘this is amazing and so well-planned.’ We didn’t want it to feel like a check-out but a celebration of their accomplishments.”

Senior President Amina Wilson read a poem from Leslie Dwight entitled “What if 2020 isn’t Cancelled”:

“What if 2020 isn’t cancelled?

What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for?⁣

A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw — that it finally forces us to grow.

A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us from our ignorant slumber.⁣

A year we finally accept the need for change.⁣

Declare change. Work for change. Become the change.

A year we finally band together, instead of pushing each other further apart.⁣

2020 isn’t cancelled, but rather the most important year of them all.”

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in March closed schools for the rest of the year. Proms, sports and any other celebration in which more than 10 people gathered were also cancelled. While schools scrambled to continue teaching and feeding students, administrations were left with how to celebrate graduates.

Several area schools found ways to hold graduation, some at drive-in movie theaters, others having students come one at a time to school to be filmed walking across the stage, but few combined the entire class being at their school with the intimacy of receiving their diploma in front of parents and friends.

The audio was transmitted through radio to each car.

Valedictorian Alexander Pellicane said rather than mourn the loss of a typical senior-year experience, students could be thankful for the opportunity.

“Life chose us. Life chose now. Let’s live every day to the fullest. We can’t control the weather, the economy, life or death but we can choose how to respond to what we’ve been given.”

Co-salutatorian Alexander Williams quoted Albert Einstein.

“’In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’…Every single one of you has the potential to make a difference in the world, whether it’s fighting for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, helping rebuild cities after they are devastated by natural disasters or leading research into cures for diseases and viruses that have for so long ravaged our lives. The quote by Einstein signifies that we cannot let events destroy us, rather, they should serve as opportunities to better the world we live in.”

Co-salutatorian Claire Kent reminded her fellow students that this was the time to celebrate all they’ve accomplished.

The family of Alyssa Divers, a classmate who died eight years prior, was among the dignitaries present. They were invited up to display a graduation banner their daughter’s friends made and signed to let them know she’s never forgotten.

After the speeches, cars bearing the students processed up to the dais, the cap and gown clad student emerged, received their diploma, stopped at a photo booth to have their picture taken, picked up their paperwork, re-entered their car and drove back to their parking spot.

When all students had their moment, Bruce asked them to stand outside of their car and look up as a drone passed overhead recording the moment.

Then Bruce pronounced them graduated and they moved their tassel from the right to the left. Horns honked, cowbells rattled, bells tolled and everyone cheered.

They left with Bruce’s words ringing in their heads: “Be positive. Be principled. Be proactive. Be productive.”



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