Class of 2020 graduates from Wilson High School
One-by-one, cars, vans and SUVs filed in to the parking lot at Wilson High School. Green, white and mylar balloons flowed from car windows, while others were festooned with banners and temporary paint congratulating the class of 2020.
Monday, June 8 marked the graduation ceremony for Wilson's high school seniors.
It was no ordinary commencement.
Instead of filling a stadium or auditorium, students and families piled into their cars for a drive-thru ceremony.
Since mid-March, schools across Oregon have been closed to students, as the COVID-19 pandemic transformed schools, businesses and just about every facet of public life. Students moved to remote learning, and for many, like the class of 2020, quintessential events and moments like prom and sports competitions were canceled.
With restrictions on celebrations and public gatherings still in place, schools had to improvise when it came to graduations.
In its first-ever drive-thru ceremony, the Southwest Portland high school invited graduates and their families to hop in their cars, drive to the Wilson campus, and celebrate each senior momentarily. One-at-a-time, grads stepped out of their cars in graduation caps and gowns, walked on stage, picked up their diplomas and posed for a photo. It was likely their last moment on the campus before many leave for college.
For seniors like Ingrid Haight, Monday was bittersweet.
"I'm sad we couldn't get a normal graduation," Haight said from the passenger seat of her family's Audi wagon, "but it's nice they were able to do something not on Zoom."
Haight and other students had grown tired of using Zoom and other digital platforms to replace in-person classes, meetings and momentous occasions. Monday's drive-thru ceremony provided a break, albeit brief, from the isolated, strange reality of a world transformed by a pandemic.
Come fall, Haight will start college at Western Washington University.
Hours before the first cars showed up Monday, the school shared a video for graduating seniors, with messages of encouragement and wisdom from staff.
"You are about to become a Wilson High School graduate," Principal Filip Hristic said, addressing seniors. "I hope this video reminds you that we love you, we respect you, and we're really proud of you."
This year's graduation ceremony may have prevented seniors from sharing in many end-of-year moments together, but the Wilson High class of 2020 still has much to celebrate. The vast majority of the nearly 500 graduating seniors graduated with honors, meaning they earned a cumulative 3.5 grade point average and completed community service hours and projects throughout their high school years.
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