The traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” music may have not been playing, but there was still a procession.
Not a procession of students, however, but a procession of cars filled with staff members from Hertford County Early College High School who made their way all over the county on Friday afternoon to deliver diplomas directly to the 45 seniors in this year’s graduating class.
May 15 was originally supposed to be graduation day for the Early College students, but the COVID-19 pandemic dashed any plans for the typical kind of service expected at the end of the school year. Under orders to follow social distancing guidelines and not gather in large groups, there would be no traditional graduation ceremony. No students clad in cap and gowns. No speaker with encouraging words. No turning of the tassel once the ceremony was complete.
“I wanted to do something for them,” explained Lyndsay Britt, principal of Hertford County Early College High School.
She’d seen parades done for students elsewhere and signs put in yards to recognize graduating seniors. So she and the rest of the school staff put together a plan to personally deliver the diplomas and a congratulatory sign to each of the 45 members of the HC Early College High School Class of 2020. They drove together in a caravan and honked the horns and sent well-wishes from their windows while family members cheered on from their porches and front yards.
“We went over 250 miles, so we hit a lot of ground,” Britt said, admitting they didn’t finish the deliveries until around 11 p.m. Friday night. “It’s been a hard time for our seniors, and we’re a small, close staff. So to have all of our staff members participate and drive 250 miles just to see the students was wonderful.”
“It was so neat to see their neighbors come out too and start clapping and congratulating them. That was really exciting,” she continued.
The goal was to give each student a memorable moment despite the circumstances.
Hertford County Schools Superintendent Dr. William Wright said he was glad they were able to find a new opportunity to celebrate student achievements.
“All of our seniors certainly deserve every recognition that we can give them during these unprecedented times,” he said. “I am certain they will rise above the adversity of these times to be more productive and more involved in making this world a better place. I look forward to hearing the many success stories that will come from this class.”
Britt said she was very proud of each student, especially because they still managed to finish strong despite the unconventional end to the school year. Over 91 percent of the students are graduating this year with both a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree or certificate, the highest percentage the Early College has had so far.
“This is a special class. They were freshmen when I first started as the principal here. So I’ve really got to see them grow and mature, and I’m so proud of this group of students,” Britt said.
“Regardless of what happens in their future, they’re all going to do great things,” she concluded.