Celebrating high school seniors amid pandemic

Susan Walsh

EDGEWATER (AP) — No prom. No graduation. No award ceremonies. No last school pranks.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of so much, but parents at one Maryland high school were determined to make their children’s senior spring memorable nonetheless.

They scoured the Internet to see how other families were celebrating their kids. In the end, the community did it all to send off the graduates of Edgewater’s South River High School in style — a mishmash of car parades and drive-thru award ceremonies, house decorating and an adopt-a-senior programme.

Trish Bell couldn’t bear to see her daughter, Chesnie Bell, miss prom. So she arranged for friends and family to drive by the house, while Chesnie — in a floor-length red gown — waved from the front yard with a friend.

That was just one of several parades. Others were more formal: Students in cars met at the high school and got a police and fire escort as they wound their way through the town just south of Annapolis, honking their horns while onlookers held up signs and cheered them on.

Families with seniors decorated their homes; teachers handed out awards, caps and gowns and school swag at a drive-thru ‘ceremony’ in the school parking lot; and the seniors got in one last gag, covering the high school with caution tape.

Many students also participated in the county’s “adopt-a-senior” programme, in which community members volunteer to buy gifts for a graduating student they don’t know. The families often met when the gifts were given — creating new connections even during a time marked by isolation.

South River High School Class of 2020 seniors make their way down a road during a community-organised parade. PHOTO: AP