By RYAN MCCRACKEN on May 14, 2020.
Monsignor McCoy High School is making the most of a tough situation.
The school’s class of 2020 should be donning their caps and gowns to walk across the stage this evening, but COVID-19 has prompted the cancellation of graduation ceremonies across the country. With that in mind, McCoy’s staff came up with a fun way to celebrate the achievements of their graduates without breaking any social distancing guidelines.Â
“It’s an important time for the staff to recognize this significant moment in the lives of the students and the families,” said McCoy counsellor Natasha Taylor. “We knew it wasn’t what we all envisioned, but it was important to connect with our students and surround them in the love and support we have for each one of our students.”
A drive-by graduation display will be set up on the block surrounding McCoy today and Friday. Staff will spend this morning setting up signs displaying the names and pictures of the school’s roughly 180 graduates. The signs will be up today until 8 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday.
“I think every high school has had to think deeply about how they can do this, this year, because it’s so atypical from what we would expect to do for graduation,” said McCoy principal Paul Bauche, adding students can take their photos with the signs and even take their own sign home next week. “One of the things that there will be a bit of a shortage of, relative to other graduations, is having lots of pictures – on the stage and all the stuff that typically comes with grad that you can keep for a lifetime. My advice to parents and to students is to take as many pictures as you can in the moments that you have.”
Staff kicked off the week on Tuesday by delivering “grad bags” to each student’s home to acknowledge their achievements in person. The bags included various school items like a vinyl decal, a prayer, and of course the traditional McCoy grad shirt bearing the signature of each graduating student inside the “2020” displayed across the back.
“It was one of the highlights of my career,” said Taylor. “We did a knock on the door, six feet back, and did kind of a celebration, shared how important they are to us and to the staff.”
Valedictorian Seth Akins says it was an emotional experience.
“I felt a little overwhelmed, to be sure,” said Akins. “They had a bunch of teachers that went around. Obviously they had to stay a fair distance away from me, but they were there to support the grad students, which I think is very important. It shows we can still be a community even when we can’t always be together.”
Taylor added overcoming the educational obstacles presented by COVID-19 has only made the school’s graduating class even more worthy of acknowledgement. It may not end with a handshake on the stage, but Taylor says the staff has been striving to ensure this week will be filled with positive memories, even in the face of a pandemic.
“Although it’s not the traditional way we’re making memories, we hope this week is something the grads can remember in a positive way,” said Taylor. “All of us have kind of struggled and endured, and each one of us has grown in a different way, so I think this is absolutely an important time to celebrate.”
Akins admits closing out high school in a global pandemic has been a unique challenge. While it’s preventing him and his classmates from having the graduation party they deserve, Akins says he still hopes to celebrate as a group and give his valedictorian’s speech at a later date.
“Obviously that’s going to depend on when the Alberta government lifts the 15-person gathering limit. Until that happens we can’t have that ceremony, but I believe I still would be giving that speech at that ceremony, whenever that is,” he said. “To the rest of my classmates, keep working and finish off high school strong and we’ll all be able to celebrate our accomplishments together at some point in the future.”