By Colleen Sparks
Graduating from high school looks a little different this year because of the Coronavirus pandemic as campuses find creative ways to honor seniors before they begin the next phase of their lives.
Many high schools in North Central Phoenix held or will conduct drive-through/parade-style graduation ceremonies, keeping students and their families a safe distance from others for their protection while still recognizing their achievements.
Brophy College Preparatory will hold a graduation event it compares to a contemporary music festival with a drive-in component outdoors at North Phoenix Baptist Church at 5757 N. Central Ave., visible on a livestream at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 4. There will be a festival stage and big screens to allow participants to access sound via their car radio or other devices or to watch from home. Before the big night, each senior, individually or with their immediate family members present, walked through the traditional on-campus graduation site, a fully decorated gymnasium, in a cap and gown to receive his diploma May 27-29 during what was called Diploma Days. A professional photographer took photos of each graduating senior and those photos will be projected at the ceremony June 4.
Xavier College Preparatory was still ironing out details of graduation as of press time, but has a Xavier Gator Senior Crawl planned for Wednesday, June 3. It will be a drive-through, timed celebration during which yearbooks, Awards Assembly envelopes, gifts, flowers, Starbucks gift cards and other items will be given out. There also will be a DJ and music, as well as drop-off stations for students to donate uniforms and books. Everyone will wear masks and keep their social distance with students staying in their vehicles.
In the Phoenix Union High School District, graduating seniors took part in drive-through or drive-in ceremonies. Graduates arrived in their caps and gowns and their families were encouraged to decorate their cars to recognize their students. Music was played, photos were taken and other surprises awaited graduates and their families as their vehicles drove to the graduation zones.
Camelback High School, part of the Phoenix Union district, honored about 450 graduating seniors in a parade that started in the south parking lot and traveled across campus down the fire lane and onto the softball field before ending in the football stadium. In the stadium each graduate walked across the stage to experience a “graduation moment.” Students received their diplomas, gifts and honors during the parade. Teachers, decorations and signs were stationed along the parade route. The ceremony was broadcast on AM radio and live streamed on YouTube. Schools in the Phoenix Union district hosted a fireworks display on May 20.
Glendale Union High School District, which includes Sunnyslope, Thunderbird and Washington high schools, held virtual graduations families could watch on May 20 on the district’s YouTube channel.
ACCEL, a nonprofit organization that educates students with special needs, celebrated its 2020 graduating class with a drive-by parade at North Phoenix Baptist Church last month. About 20 graduating seniors from ACCEL’s three campuses traveled in vehicles with family members while friends and staff members watched from a safe distance. Graduating seniors’ names were called.