Calgary high school graduates in floor-length gowns walked the red carpet on a driveway in the southeast community of Chaparral on Monday.
It’s the new reality for the class of 2020.
With formal school ceremonies cancelled due to COVID-19, unique celebrations are popping up to help graduates mark the accomplishment.
News of the cancelled ceremony hit student Kamryn Sandberg hard.
“It was something I’ve looked forward to for 12 years, and just not having that was just kind of a bit of an upsetting moment. But knowing that I have my friends beside me at all times and supporting me, it’s OK,” she said.
“If anything, all our friends have connected more, and just coming together as a community has been absolutely wonderful.”
Parents Tonya and Mark Sandberg were proud to commemorate the occasion in a new way.
“The social distance graduation I think is a great way for the students to be able to celebrate,” Mark said.
“They walked out of the school in March and I don’t think they ever dreamt that they were ever not going to be going back to the schools. So they never ever had a real way to close the final chapter in their storybook.”
Kamryn and her parents sat at a table in the backyard smiling as they sipped fancy drinks. Fences separated them from two other families.
“Not having an opportunity was pretty sad for [Kamryn] because she had her dress and she wanted to be with her friends the whole time [and] end the school year that way before they all go off to university,” Tonya said.
“Now, it’s not really bothering her that much anymore, and just getting involved in stuff like this and hiring photographers I think has changed quite a bit for her.”
Lynn Fletcher, owner of Lynn Fletcher Weddings and Events, put on the glam affair because her heart goes out to the class of 2020.
“We anticipate that most of the graduates will want to celebrate post walking the stage in their finest with their parents. They’re going to be celebrating in their backyards,” she said.
“So we are going to be able to make parties happen for them at a safe distance with all of the health and safety modulations that need to happen. So we’re here to help them celebrate like they deserve to be celebrating.”
Fletcher said the company staged the event to illustrate what parties should look like during the pandemic: physical distancing, seating areas where families can be comfortable and still socialize and entrance protocols like hand sanitizer and signage.
The goal is to help grads celebrate safely with proper PPE — not personal protective equipment but personal party essentials, like individual food packages.
A drive-thru grad is also in the works for Calgary’s 2020 class. Students can dress up, have photos done and cross the stage to finish off the school year in style.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for them to be able to walk across the stage or drive across the stage in this instance, to be able to finally have that closure, that they can hear the names announced and get their final diploma, what they worked for all [this] time,” Mark said.
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