While graduation plans at Oakfield-Alabama High School are not what seniors envisioned heading into the academic year, they will surely be unique and memorable, just like 2020 has been -- like no other.
Oakfield-Alabama Central School officials have made their 62 graduating seniors a huge priority this Spring.
As they adjust to the combined influences of the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, social distancing, and the completion of the final year of high school for these young adults, they have honored their grads in a lot of special ways, and are planning a Commencement ceremony to beat the band.
“In light of the changes brought on by COVID-19, our goal at Oakfield-Alabama is to ramp up the celebrations of our seniors so that they know that we are with them, even when society forces us apart," said Middle and High School Principal Matt Peterson. "The culmination will be an on-campus graduation celebration…that they’ll remember forever.”
After weeks of diligent planning, district officials have worked out the details for well-organized, on-campus event at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 20.
A makeshift stage will be set up in the school parking lot, and students will walk the stage to receive their diploma.
A commemorative photo will be taken at the moment their diploma is handed off — this is in lieu of the traditional handshake with the Superintendent.
All social distancing guidelines will be in place, and inclement weather plans have been set up.
So that closest family members can celebrate on-location with their grad, a “one car for each graduate” policy will be in place. As their ”ticket” for entrance, each grad will be assigned a numbered spot in the campus parking lot and issued a vinyl decal and laminated number that corresponds with their reserved parking spot.
Students will be lined up with the Valedictorian’s spot at “1”, followed by the other Top 10 in order of rank, and the rest will follow alphabetically.
Planners have done their best to make the campus fit their needs, but they are aware that a clear visual line to the stage may not be possible for all in attendance.
Additionally, community members may also want to listen to the ceremony. So, in a style much like a drive-in movie theater, the event will be aired live on WBTA (AM 1490 and FM 100.1) and broadcast so that anyone interested can listen.
For friends and family who are not able to attend the on-site ceremony, it will be live-streamed, and also recorded for future viewing.
The goal is to have an atmosphere of pure celebration envelop the campus throughout the day.
The staff will greet graduates with boisterous cheers as they drive into the parking lot.
The departure following the ceremony will be led by a firetruck in a celebratory motorcade. The convoy will travel through portions of Oakfield and Alabama, a grand finale gesture marking the end this surreal school year.
“This plan for graduation might not be everybody’s ideal version of how we should have a commencement ceremony, but we feel as if it represents a close version of what we usually do,” Peterson said.
Even as all of the Commencement plans were being made, staff, administration and community members have been busy over the past few months with other activities designed to celebrate their grads.
- Community members adopted every senior to honor them individually, while one lucky adoptee even had a prom complete with photo session planned for her and her boyfriend.
- Teachers and administrators have delivered celebratory senior yard signs to each grad.
- They have highlighted their Valedictorian, Salutatorian, Top 10 and senior athletes on social media.
- They have provided each teen with a senior year keepsake, as well as personalized letters of support and encouragement as they near the end of their high school experience.
- They have worked on multiple video projects that will memorialize the seniors’ high school accomplishments and share details about their plans for the future! All will be posted on social media when they are complete.
“I am certain that when it is over, our graduates will feel as if they’ve received a worthy celebration of their momentous accomplishment,” Peterson said.
Photo courtesy of Patricia Buczek and Legacy Studios.