The coronavirus pandemic and resulting quarantine have changed our daily lives in too many ways to count. For students about to graduate high school and college, though, the impact of an abbreviated school year has created ripple effects over a season that is supposed to be filled with memories and milestones.
As the mother of a member of the high school class of 2020, I know it has been heartbreaking to watch as events such as prom, final music or theater performances and sports tournaments fell off the calendar once the stay-at-home orders started. Even graduation dates are up in the air at this point as districts scramble to make alternate plans.
College seniors also had their final year come to an abrupt end. My oldest daughter is a fourth-year college student who lost her senior honors art show, which is her capstone project for her academic career. Many of her friends won’t have their graduation ceremony at all and will settle for getting their degree in the mail.
While none of us imagined this kind of senior year for our students and we may not be able to fully replace these one-of-a-kind events, I’ve been researching ways to celebrate my senior (and her friends) to let her know that her accomplishments are real and should be recognized even if the large group events are out of the picture.
We can celebrate our amazing graduates in a variety of creative ways, including the following:
Social Distancing Graduation Parades
I’ve seen a number of these pop up around the country and even in my hometown with teachers getting into their cars and driving around town to celebrate their students. Here, Twitter user @alexstokestv provides video of one such event.
Social distancing parade! Families in Canal Fulton were happy to see their teachers from Northwest Local Schools as they drove by in their cars led by Canal Fulton police before the Stay-At-Home order starts tonight. The teachers made signs to tell their students they miss them! pic.twitter.com/5YkC8A8S5m
— Alex Stokes (@alexstokestv) March 23, 2020
But, what if parents planned a celebratory graduation parade for their graduate? Invite a bunch of family and/or friends to drive by your home to honor your student. Each car can be decorated and have a sign of congratulations. There can be cheers and waves, and likely a few tears. It can even be a surprise if you want!
A Special Graduation Photo Shoot
You have the cap and gown, but maybe no place to wear it. How about a private photo shoot of your amazing graduate? Some parents are taking the DIY approach and doing the photography themselves at special locations of the student’s choosing.
Other photographers are offering their services for free or at a discounted price for seniors feeling displaced. The only limit to your photo session is your imagination. This soon-to-be college grad at @hailspails_ embraced some humor in her unusual situation.
— hailey (@hailspails_) April 17, 2020
Make A Yard Sign
Some schools have an annual tradition of having a yard sign made for each of their seniors. We are lucky that my daughter’s school still continued with this tradition and even did a surprise, social-distancing delivery day this past weekend! This image, from Lakota East’s Parent Teacher Student Organization, shows how it’s done.
THIS made US cry!!!! Thank you!!! Congrats! https://t.co/IbvzdzaPHC
— LEHS PTSO (@LEHS_PTSO) April 18, 2020
Even if your school doesn’t do this, you can go online to sites like Vistaprint and create your own! Most of them are less than $25 to make — just shop around for the best deal.
Decorate Your Front Door
Many families are creating front door collages to celebrate their high school or college senior. One Instagram user, @_blackbarietrin, actually put out a challenge to every family with a graduate to deck out their senior’s front door with school colors, party decor, graduation bling and much more!
Have other ideas on how to recognize the graduating senior in your life? Make sure to put your ideas out there and share the senior love!