Joel Barlow High School students have not been in the school classrooms since mid-March, when the school moved to distance learning. Students, teachers, and administrators alike were feeling emotional at seeing each other again for Barlow’s drive-through graduation ceremony.
“I should’ve brought tissues,” remarked Dr. Gina Pin, head of school and assistant superintendent.
“Seeing some of my favorite staff members definitely made me get a little choked up,” said 2020 graduate Sophia Danuszar.
When it became clear a traditional graduation ceremony wasn’t an option, Barlow administrators surveyed the seniors to find out what they wanted to do to celebrate this milestone. The goal was to take into account the student voice and do what felt most meaningful to the students.
“I felt special and seen and cared for. It was cathartic and I’ll always remember the love I felt,” said Danuszar.
The drive-through ceremony, organized by Jen Desmarais, assistant principal, required cooperation from various town departments, Barlow staff and the graduates and their families. Students were assigned a time to come pick up their diploma and had a few minutes to drive through, take photos and collect a bag of goodies supplied by the PTSA.
The carefully planned ceremony ran smoothly, with families arriving on time and police and Barlow security officers keeping the traffic moving.
Several community volunteers offered to attend the ceremony and take photographs. Many of Barlow’s teachers also volunteered to stand along the drive where students exited to cheer them on.
The ceremony was “as good as it could be. It’s definitely memorable,” said Jim DeVoto, Barlow math teacher and senior class advisor.
Despite plenty of uncertainty about what will happen next in the COVID-19 pandemic, the drive-through ceremony offered a respite. “We’re celebrating,” said Desmarais.
A video with the traditional graduation speeches will be sent to the graduates. Recording took place the week of June 8. Barlow administration hopes to make the final video available June 17.