Lansing Class of 2020 elects to sit together for graduation

The 74 members of Lansing High School’s Class of 2020 chose to sit through two June 26 graduation ceremonies rather than split their class up. The annual rite is complicated by limits on attendance and academic awards and scholarships.
The 74 members of Lansing High School’s Class of 2020 chose to sit through two June 26 graduation ceremonies rather than split their class up. The annual rite is complicated by limits on attendance and academic awards and scholarships.
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New York state said that pandemic precautions limit attendance at Lansing High School’s 2020 graduation ceremony to 150 people.

Required attendees - the 74 seniors, Principal Pat Hornbrook and Superintendent Chris Pettograsso - make up half of that allowance.

The seniors could have done a “drive-through” ceremony in front of the high school, or they could have split the ceremony, with seniors with last names beginning with A through L and their guests graduating and then exiting to make way for seniors M through Z and their guests.

Or they could have elected to sit together through two full ceremonies, with guests of students A through L attending the first iteration and guests of students M through Z at the second.

Hornbrook polled the students and their parents and, in the end, they decided to stick together.

And so, the seniors will parade twice, listen to two sets of graduation speakers and rise twice to receive their diplomas on June 26 on Sobus Field rather than split their class into two (or more) parts.

It may be the only part of their senior year that they want to repeat.

“These 74 graduates have certainly had a tumultuous year, stripped of nearly their entire senior spring semester and all of their academic, athletic and extracurricular activities as well as the beloved customary end-of-year rituals like prom and other award ceremonies,” Hornbrook said. “While this is all beyond unfortunate, this senior class has persevered in so many ways.”

Hornbrook said the Class of 2020 is particularly resilient.

“One could say they were born to be resilient,” he said. “All of these seniors were born either right before or soon after 9/11 and the subsequent wars that happened after. After 18 years, they are graduating in the middle of a global pandemic. It’s no wonder they are equipped to preserve through these last 15 weeks of school.”

The Class of 2020 fortuitously chose two teachers to dedicate their yearbook to and hear from at graduation – French teacher Amanda Zerilli and Spanish teacher Abigail Cleary. The duo will refrain from repeating themselves by working together on a two-part speech. Likewise, student speakers Ethan Burt and Catherine Eisenhut wrote their talks as one message.

Academic awards were done in a “green screen” ceremony published online last week – a move even more necessary since all 74 graduating students earned an award or scholarship for their work. Senior scholarships will be awarded at the graduation ceremonies.

“Prior to our school closure, our seniors led the way in creating the ‘Bobcat Team,’ a group of students dedicated to athletic and extracurricular activities,” Hornbrook said. “They attended, in force, as many events as they could and were heard in the bleachers and crowds supporting their classmates. The Bobcat team was in attendance at every senior night for every sport this year as well, a tribute to their dedication to their fellow seniors.”

During the school closure, students maintained friendships by organizing the “new normal COVID Driveby Birthday,” according to Hornbrook.

“The seniors got together and drove by other seniors’ houses with signs, music and horns blazing for one another even though they weren’t able to celebrate in person with one another,” he said. “They were even so kind as to give me a drive-by birthday earlier this month when I was leaving work.”

Hornbrook reflected on the past semester and praised the graduating seniors.

“We are extremely proud of all of their accomplishments leading up to graduation and are looking forward to their continued achievements in life and in school,” he said. “Here in Lansing, we are committed to giving our senior class a graduation ceremony they have earned and are well deserving of. Their graduation ceremony may be limited. However, we are making every effort to hold our ceremony in a manner as close to our annual graduation as possible. It was a nice first year as principal.”

Hornbrook, Pettograsso and their fellow teachers and administrators met early this week to begin planning “re-entry” for the 2020-21 school year.

“We have limited information and a lot of guesswork,” Hornbrook said.

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