WALLINGFORD — The approximately 36 students who participated in Sheehan High School’s drive-through graduation ceremony Tuesday may have had the most unique senior year in generations, but commencement speakers implored them not to characterize their school years by the past three months.
“Don’t let the pandemic define you as the class that went through the pandemic; but rather be defined by the many other years you had in our district — the 11 other years you had in our district,” School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said in a prerecorded speech. “All the successes, all of the honors, all the awards, the community service, all those great things. Don’t let three months of your life, of our lives, characterize you as a whole class.”
Principal Enzo Zocco said he doesn’t believe 2020 will be remembered as an “infamous year” because the challenges students faced will reinforce all the lessons and values they have been taught.
“Although there were many disadvantages to adjusting to life over the past few months for our seniors, there was one big advantage that they had: they all got to sleep in a little too much. On a more serious note, our graduates learned the value of perseverance and relationships,” he said.
Students were organized into a staging area at nearby Our Lady of Fatima Church and grouped into small processions of cars that drove to Sheehan, where students disembarked and were called onto the stage one-by-one to receive diplomas and pose for photos. Because it was a small group, short descriptions of their time at Sheehan and their future plans were also read.
Lyman Hall High School had its own drive-through ceremony on Monday and both schools will be having larger drive-in ceremonies on July 6 and 7 at the Oakdale Theatre.
Students will park in one lot
together and watch live speeches on an outdoor stage before they walk from cars to receive diplomas onstage.
They can also invite a second car full of guests to watch the ceremony as it is streamed on a screen set up in a second parking lot at the theater.
After her daughter, Logan Taylor, walked across the stage set up in front of the bus loop at Sheehan, Lisa Taylor said the ceremony went smoothly and was very well organized. While she missed the “pomp and circumstance” of a traditional ceremony, she was happy to be there with her daughter.
“We were happy to do it,” she said.
Though he also would’ve enjoyed being able to take part in the pageantry of a traditional commencement, Justin Moore said he enjoyed that the drive-through format made the ceremony quicker so he could spend more of the day celebrating with his family.
“It was just not the normal,” he said. “It didn’t feel real, it was cool though. It felt like I accomplished something.”