Waving from cars
By Robert Stevens
Chalk it up to the coronavirus for giving us what will be henceforth known as the “car parade” graduation.
Instead of walking across the stage in cap and gown, Sanpete County high school graduates will be parading their automobiles down their respective Main Street in a unique ceremony, created especially for these new times of social distancing.
All three area public high schools, Manti, North Sanpete and Gunnison Valley, are planning car parades for their graduation ceremonies on May 22.
Wasatch Academy, a private boarding school in Mt. Pleasant, will be producing a “graduation movie” for its students and holding a virtual graduation on May 23. The parade concept isn’t suitable for Wasatch Academy because it would have been nearly impossible to bring all the graduates together as the teens are spread out all over the nation and world, said Nancy Hewitt, assistant to head of schools.
So this rite of passage will end differently for Sanpete seniors. In some ways, the occasion might be even more festive than a traditional commencement. Sanpete seniors will decorate their cars and trucks as they proceed down Main Street. Spectators will line the streets and cheer the graduates forward. And the “graduation march” will be broadcast live on the local radio and TV stations.
Manti High senior Tiffany Wayman is planning on “be-dazzling” her convertible and is looking forward to being in the ceremony.
“I am really excited,” she said. “I think a parade with your car decorated with all your achievements, and going down Main Street with the people clapping is a lot more fun to me than sitting in an auditorium waiting for speeches; so I’m not too upset about it.”
Wayman said she loves to decorate. She will be commemorating all the things she did in high school and have mementos popping out of her convertible.
While these have been unusual and trying times for seniors, Hewitt tries to remind her graduation class “that there are millions of seniors throughout the world who are not going to have a traditional graduation either.”
The move to online classes for the last quarter of school has been taxing for students and teachers alike. Wayman said she has been exceptionally busy with online classes because a lot of material has been crammed into the last few weeks of school so the students can graduate.
She has not physically seen a lot of her friends, but she has made some contact with them by Zoom and phone. Wayman says she has found herself growing a little bit further apart from her friends as they are all making different plans to move forward.
“I think of it as a small preparation,” Wayman said. “We are all preparing to leave each other to go off into the world.”
Wayman has accepted a scholarship to from Southern Utah University and will attend school in Cedar City in the fall. That’s if the COVID-19 problem has blown over and classes are back in session.
“I am keeping my fingers crossed,” she said.
For many, big plans for a post-graduation party have been squashed as well. Wayman and her friends have talked about doing something this summer if the coast is clear, or planning a one-year reunion.
“It won’t be the same,” she said. “But what can we do about it.”
When classes were stopped in mid-march due to the new coronavirus, the closure cast a huge cloud of sadness upon Wasatch Academy. The school was in the middle of spring break and most of its students were off-campus when the new coronavirus hit. Because many of the kids were at home in different states or different countries, they were told to stay away and take online classes, Hewitt said.
The sad result of the travel restrictions meant that many of the kids never had a chance to say goodbye to each other or their teachers, Hewitt said. Many of them left without their possessions to never see each other again.
“We are packing up their belongings and shipping them back to them,” she said.
She is hopeful the graduation movie and the tribute paid to all 85 graduates will pick up their spirits. Nearly all of the graduates will be moving on to college.
The private boarding school in Mt. Pleasant is busy producing a movie, which will be ready for students to login and view on May 23 at 11 a.m., Hewitt said.
The movie will begin with the sound of bagpipes and scroll through scenes of the campus. Speeches will be given by three of the school’s most influential students: Jadon Bucklin, Rokiatou Diop and Samantha Williams; and then a special guest alumnus will speak.
After that, the Head of School Joseph Loftin will announce all the names of every graduate, where they are from and where they are going to college. The graduates will each be given a tribute by one of their favorite teachers. A final speech by the Head of Schools will conclude the graduation movie.
A virtual movie seemed a nice solution to the graduation dilemma, Hewitt said.
Closing down was pretty sad, Hewitt said. Like every other school in the nation, there was no prom or fond farewell. The nationally ranked basketball team was also on its way to a shot at the national prep title, but that aspiration was nixed as well.
Manti High School
The graduation ceremony for 156 seniors will get underway on 300 S. Main Street at 5 p.m. Cars and trucks adorned with personalized banners and other decorations will travel north and turn at the marquee. Diplomas will be handed out and photos taken.
A pre-recording of the graduation speeches and musical performances will be broadcast on MTCC channel 3 at 4:30 p.m. The parade will also be carried live by MTCC and KMTI Mid-Utah Radio and each student’s name will be aired as they receive their diplomas.
The school’s valedictorian is Jonathan Henningson from Manti, salutatorian is Savannah Allen also from Manti and senior class president is Megan Olsen from Ephraim.
Manti’s principal Karen Soper told the graduates, “Your senior year will end differently than any other senior year that any of us [adults included] can remember, but we feel it is important to celebrate your accomplishments and provide you a graduation unlike any other.”
Manti did have a huge success this year, as the boys’ basketball team rallied to beat Richfield, 60-54, and captured the 3A Boys’ State Championship. It was their second 3A championship in three years as a 3A school.
North Sanpete High School
The school’s auto parade of 137 graduates will get started at 3:30 p.m. and spectators will be able to view the event by driving East on 700 South in Mt. Pleasant.
Graduates will pick up their diplomas and a professional photographer will be on-site. The entire event will be livestreamed on CentraCom local channel 10 or viewed online www.local10.tv.
A pre-recorded commencement ceremony will then be aired at 7 p.m. and all graduates will receive a digital copy. The senior class president Scott Shock will give the welcome address. Featured speakers are Thomas Jones, Addelyn Brotherson, Orange Peel and Mayzie Talbot. The retrospect will be given by Isabella Johnson.
School officials told the Hawk graduates in a letter: “As we navigate through unprecedented times, we would like to share the creative ways we’ve come up with to celebrate YOU! Our celebration may be different, it’s not what we’re accustomed too, but we are committed to making it as memorable as possible given the current meeting limitations and circumstances.”
The school is also planning a Class of 2020 reception in the fall on Sept. 18. All 2020 graduates are invited to attend a reception in their honor prior to the homecoming football game at 5 p.m. They will also be honored at halftime.
Gunnison High School
The Bulldogs will be graduating 72 seniors this year and the grads will be recognized with a pre-recorded commencement and a car parade on May 22 at 7 p.m. The parade will be carried online through local providers, with the exact details still being worked out.
The parade route will start at 200 North on Main Street and travel to 200 South. Seniors will receive their diplomas at the Gunnison Heritage Plaza near the clock tower. The name of each graduate and their parents will be announced and a board member will present the diploma. The parade will be recorded and combined with the commencement ceremony into a digital version that will be sent to all the graduates.
Featured graduates from class of 2020 include senior class president Jentri Jackson, valedictorian Garrett Francis and the salutatorian Destry Nay. The school boasted an excellent boys’ basketball team that claimed the Region 16 title for 2A. But the team fell in the second round of the state tourney.