Celebrating Class of 2020 Graduates During the Pandemic

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Class of 2020 may not move their tassels and throw their mortarboards in the air together, but Oregon schools still celebrate their accomplishments.

OREGON – For most schools, graduation planning began many months ago. Seniors were looking forward to activities that would make their final year memorable, including commencement. All of that went out the window when a deadly pandemic of COVID-19 swept the globe.

Schools around the state are now working to keep commencement traditions alive and still keep graduates safe. They’re reimagining group ceremonies and working with parents to come up with creative ways to honor achievements. Here are a few inspiring ways schools are celebrating and giving seniors the recognition they deserve.

South Salem High School has invited their graduating seniors to paint a 6×6 inch ceramic tile the way they would’ve decorated the top of their mortarboard (graduation cap). The tiles will be used to create a mural that symbolizes the iconic moment when seniors toss their graduation caps into the air.

West Linn-Wilsonville School District is honoring seniors with yard signs and will hold drive-through commencement ceremonies. At the ceremony, students will wait in their car until it’s their turn to walk across the outdoor stage to get their diploma. Family and friends can watch via live-stream.

Tillamook High School is holding a drive-in commencement at the Tillamook County Fairgrounds. Cars will park six-feet apart to view the event on a large screen. Graduates will use social distancing at the ceremony and a community parade, led by local law enforcement, will follow.  

The Bend-La Pine School District is featuring photos of seniors on five billboards throughout the city. “We wanted to do something bold and highly visible to recognize the more than 1,200 seniors who are graduating from our high schools this June,” said Shay Mikalson, Bend-La Pine Schools superintendent according to the district website. “When the opportunity arose to congratulate each high school’s graduating class on a 24-foot wide billboard, we knew we wanted to do it.”

Newport High School is honoring seniors by lighting up their school stadium every Wednesday as part of #bethelightOR. They’re also recognizing seniors through social media postings, drive-by events, car decorating, a video compilation, and personalized yard signs. The Instagram video below shows how the school staff prepared to deliver personalized yard signs to seniors.

Nothing can diminish the achievement of the class of 2020. Though graduating seniors may not be marking the milestone in the way they’d planned, Oregon is proud of them and their achievements.

About Author

Amy Velez is an Operations & Policy Analyst with Oregon's Department of Administrative Services

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