Surry County HS’ prepares for safe, joyful community-wide graduation celebration

By: Terry Harris | Twitter: @SSDispatch
Posted: June 5, 2020 | 5:45 p.m.

Finally putting to rest the fear that there might be no ceremony to honor the Class of 2020, Surry County High School’s website recently posted these words: “We all want our seniors to know that we love them and look forward to celebrating their accomplishments.” Then, after acknowledging the need for social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the statement ended with the announcement, “We are pleased to inform you that a non-traditional ‘Drive-Through’ graduation ceremony has been planned for Saturday, June 13, 2020 at 10:00 AM at Surry County High School.”

“As Principal, I truly understand the desire for students to walk across stage in front of family, friends, and loved ones,” said Giron Wooden, Jr., adding that the administration truly believes that the precautionary measures are best for the health and safety of all.  “The SCHS Cougar Family understands that graduation is always an exciting time and a special occasion for everyone. We thank our students, families, and community for their flexibility and understanding.”  

When asked about plans for the day, Surry County School Superintendent Dr. Serbrenia Sims said, “Three years ago Surry County Public Schools adopted the 6C’s for a Surry Graduate:  Communication Skills; Collaboration Skills, Citizenship Skills, Creative Thinking Skills; Critical Thinking Skills and Content Knowledge.  These are recognized as the backbone for success in life and employment after graduation.  The Class of 2020 has all these skills.  They are ready to go out and change the world one problem at a time.  Our graduation ceremony will be non-traditional as we comply with Governor Ralph Northam’s social distancing rules, but we still intend to celebrate our students and their success.  So, for the Class of 2020, I offer a seventh ‘C’ – Celebrate!”

Following CDC guidelines as well as the governor’s guidelines for social distancing, Sims explained, “All students will be in enclosed vehicles; no flat-bed trucks or anything of that nature will be allowed.  And they can have as many in their vehicle as they choose to have.  We will line the cars up at L. P. Jackson Middle according to the order in which students’ names will be called.  Then, once the ceremony begins, we will let them know as each vehicle is to proceed to the high school.”

Once the vehicles in which the students and their families are riding get to the high school they will proceed through the actual ceremony which, if the day is sunny, will be on the SCHS track.  

“We’re still working out some of the details,” she said,  “But we have two Valedictorians – they were exactly tied! – and one Salutatorian who will be doing speeches, and we’ve talked with an FM radio station about broadcasting those so that families lining up can actually hear them broadcast.”

She added that live-streaming on Facebook is also an option. 

“The Seniors will be allowed to exit their vehicles one at a time and walk across the stage as their name is called,” she continued.  “Each student will receive their diploma from Principal Wooden and Assistant Principal Courtney Ward and then proceed down to where, as we always do, they will have formal pictures made as the come down off the stage.  The plan is for each graduate and their parents to be able to get out of the cars for the pictures.  Then, once the formal pictures are done, they will circle the track and exit at Hollybush Road.” 

But, Sims said, the ceremony is just the beginning of a full day of celebration. 

“Graduation in Surry County has always been a community event,” she explained. “Not just for the sake of Seniors or their immediate  families but also for the entire community.  And one way the community is getting involved – and I’m really appreciative of their doing this – is that the Surry County Board of Supervisors, Department of Parks and Recreation, and some of the parents of the class of 2020 are hosting an actual Graduation Parade after the ceremony.  It just makes for a wonderful day!  The ceremony starts at 10, then at 2 p.m. there’ll be the parade sponsored by community, and that will still give them time to go home and celebrate in barbecues with family.  It’s just a full day of recognition of the significance of their achievement and honoring the class of 2020.”

Looking at the full community event that the combination of all the plans and celebrations has grown into, Sims said, “That’s So typical of Surry County.  Everything – at least, the most important activities – is done by the community, as a community.  And there’s nothing more important to the seniors of 2020 than their graduation. So it’s fitting that it’s not just the school division but the community and support of families that will make this day memorable for the class of 2020.” 

“The Class of 2020 began their year with the same energy and hopefulness that every senior class prior to them felt,” she added.   “Our parents, teachers, coaches and staff members have done an excellent job of preparing our seniors for the future.  It is heartbreaking to know that they missed their last quarter of school.  However, in the previous twelve and a half years they have grown both physically and academically, and I feel confident that they are ready for a bright future.  I also know that they are prepared to tackle all challenges that life throws in their way.  COVID 19 is simply a reminder that, along the way, there will be trials.  The key is to remain joyful and work hard at resilience.” 

Copyright 2020 Womack Publishing 

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