By Chris Martello
Easing of pandemic restrictions came just in time for the Class of 2020 graduates here in our Valley! While they still could not have a traditional ceremony due to social distancing in place and the order for no large group events, the stay-at-home orders were relieved and this opened an opportunity for school officials to creatively plan and conduct drive-through graduations to recognize this important milestone for our youth.
All three school districts in the Valley quickly organized drive-through ceremonies to officially congratulate students and hand them their diploma. One of the last was Palm Desert High School’s taking place on June 11, with 450 graduates. Those that chose to participate dressed in their cap and gown, walked the red carpet, and proudly crossed the stage while receiving their diploma and a proclamation from the City of Palm Desert.
To keep things rolling along smoothly, graduates were scheduled to arrive in groups at different times, based on last names, with one car per family. There were two stages with Principal Zink conducting the honors on one stage, and Superintendent Scott Bailey on the other. Upon exiting the stage graduates posed for a photo with the backdrop being the Aztec colors of black, red and gold. During the progression “Pomp and Circumstance” played over the loud speakers, and with many decorated cars there were honks and hoots from the drivers and passengers inside. Students as well as parents were clearly excited to have this moment for an official recognition of their achievement. Parents remained in their cars while taking videos and photos as their graduate had their moment on stage.
Addressing the Palm Desert High graduates in the virtual ceremony following event, Principal Zink stated, “Your toughness and resilience will define you as you go out into the world and take on leadership roles.” He encouraged graduates to not dwell on what they have lost due to the pandemic, but to instead look at what they have gained through academics, arts, athletics, and leadership talent as they venture ahead, while noting how this challenging time will enable them to tackle other obstacles in life as well.
With COVID-19 ending the school year short and halting sports, prom and other celebratory events in one’s senior year, the Class of 2020 definitely makes an unprecedented footprint in history. This class will always be remembered for having survived a tumultuous time with senior year coming to an end abruptly, but also for sparking the creativity in ways to celebrate one another and this important rite of passage. Some of us remember our graduation ceremonies vaguely, some with more gusto, but this class is sure to remember a pandemic forever changing an important moment in time for them, and how they had to adjust and discover unique ways to commemorate this accomplishment.
Congratulations Class of 2020!