Edmonton

Graduation in the time of COVID-19: Celebrating the Class of 2020

The Class of 2020 was forced to trade tradition for something different.

Grads have faced a new kind of uncertainty this spring. Here are some of the stories

Sterling Derk helps high school graduate Dylan LaPierre with a rental tuxedo at Derks Formals and Menswear. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

The Class of 2020 was forced to trade tradition for something different.

As schools closed their doors this spring, grad ceremonies and proms were called off or delayed.

There would be no en masse celebrations with classmates. Cozy photos with prom dates and awkward slow dances were out of the question. 

Blue medical masks replaced floral corsages and boutonnieres. Caps were tossed and tassels were turned in isolation. Diplomas were sent in the mail or passed from teacher to student by hockey stick.

But despite the disappointments and the distancing, there have been unexpected moments of joy and as resilient graduates celebrated amid COVID-19 in new and innovative ways.

Here are some of their stories. 

Tori Michaluk, a graduating Grade 12 student, poses with teachers from Redwater School after they delivered her graduation cap and diploma. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Redwater grads settle for front-door celebrations after COVID-19 quashes ceremony

When health restrictions forced graduating high school students in Redwater, Alta., to cancel their grad, their teachers found another way to honour them.

Teachers at Redwater School drove to the homes of the almost 30 graduates, bringing along a graduation cap, diploma, a mug and a few letters for each.

"It was really heartbreaking almost because I want to hug them and stuff," said graduate Tori Michaluk, 18. "But it's really nice that they did that because a lot of schools didn't even get anything."

Read more here.

Grad Joslynn Wyatt said her school's parade was a great way to celebrate the school's first graduating class. (Submitted by Joslynn Wyatt)

Students get drive-by graduation celebration in Fort McMurray

Teachers and staff of Ecole McTavish Public High School in Fort McMurray took a different approach, surprising students with a graduation parade. 

Grad Joslynn Wyatt said the parade was a great way to celebrate the school's first graduating class. 

"It was actually super cute," said Wyatt. "They came around … blaring their horns and everything, and my principal came out. He handed me my cap and gown with a hockey stick."

Read more here. 

School graduations across Alberta are taking on a new, unique feel because of COVID-19 pandemic guidelines. 2:36

Class of COVID-19: Inventing high school graduation celebrations they will never forget

Classmates at Thorsby Junior/Senior High School got a surprise of a different kind on the day they picked up their diplomas. 

Enlarged photos of each graduate — spaced two metres apart to respect the rules of physical distancing — lined the sidewalk outside their school. 

Smiling teachers, support and maintenance staff and the principal, dressed as the school's sabre-tooth tiger mascot, waved pompoms and signs that said "We miss you" and "We are proud of you."

"I almost teared up and it just really put a smile on my face,"said valedictorian Keira Slusarczyk, 17. "It really showed that they did care and that we could still celebrate even if it wasn't what we originally thought it would be."

Read more here.

Danielle Vandersteen, 17, is set to graduate this spring from École Alexandre-Taché in St. Albert. (Supplied by Danielle Vandersteen)

With celebrations cancelled, Alberta grads walk the virtual stage 

Students had chance to walk across a "virtual stage" to receive their diplomas after their names are called out by a DJ host. An Edmonton-based company is creating personalized certificates while sponsors are helping purchase cap tassels to be sent to participating students.

Danielle Vandersteen, 17, had been looking forward to high school graduation all year.

The Grade 12 student at École Alexandre-Taché in St. Albert had the perfect green lace dress picked out for the dance. She couldn't wait to walk across the stage in her yellow and black cap and gown.

"It was actually quite heartbreaking because, your whole school career, you look forward to the last days of high school with your friends," Vandersteen said.

"I've been with some of my friends since preschool so it was really tough for us to realize that we wouldn't have those last memories, those last goodbyes — you know, the memories that really make your high school experience the best." 

Read more here. 

Vahida Samji, owner of Prom Affair, is hoping high school graduation events start to be postponed instead of cancelled as gathering restrictions continue to be lifted in Alberta. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Businesses banking on 2020 grad season take big hit due to pandemic cancellations

High school grad season is a time for celebration, but many Edmonton businesses that bank on the occasion are taking big losses.

Now, with loosened restrictions on public gatherings, they're hoping cancellations turn into postponements.

Read more here.

They're leaders, athletes and musicians. Plus, they have the highest grade-point average out of more than 500 graduates. We'll meet the two valedictorians from M.E. LaZerte High School. 5:37
 
From a life-changing wildfire to a global pandemic. We check in with the Fort McMurray Class of 2020. 4:05
How teachers are celebrating graduates at Mother Margaret Mary High School. 5:58
It's an unconventional graduation season for this year's Grade 12's. We'll hear how one of the city's biggest schools plans to celebrate, while maintaining social distance. 6:23
We'll hear from some of the top athletes in the graduating class of 2020. We're going to Edmonton's Vimy Ridge Academy. 6:33

A sincere round of congratulations to all Alberta grads. Thank you for sharing your stories with us! 

If you have an amazing graduation story you like to share? We would love to hear from you. 

 

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