FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Hutchison High School changed the format of its graduation and created a video for its students in order to celebrate their achievement without a traditional ceremony.
Each student was given five minutes for a private walk and diploma ceremony with their family. (Alex Bengel/KTVF)
Africa Beaty, a science teacher at Hutchison, coordinated the combined efforts of graduating seniors and staff who prepared the adjusted ceremony. She said, “It was our endeavor to create a graduation that gave the children the same feel as the graduation they would have had if COVID-19 hadn’t occurred.”
Over three days, students signed up for five-minute timeslots, during which they made their way to a stage in the high school’s gymnasium to receive their diploma from parents, guardians or other family members with whom they are quarantined.
To prepare for the event, the gymnasium was decorated, and stand-up pictures of students lined the walkway traveled by the students to collect their diploma.
“From the beginning, we assigned committees to all the seniors. The seniors were on the committees. They worked together to make sure that they had the graduation not only that they deserved, but they wanted,” Beaty said.
“When they walked out of the gym, they walked away fulfilled. They walked away happy. They didn’t walk away feeling like they missed anything.” Beaty added that when a student left the gym, sometimes they would be greeted by their friends and teachers waiting in the parking lot to congratulate them from an appropriate distance.
Beaty was glad to be able to take part in the preparations. “One of the things that I was most upset about is that I’d been their class advisor for three years and this is their senior year and I wouldn’t get to see all my babies graduate on one stage. Well, I got to see them graduate on one stage, one at a time,” she said.
Benjamin Johnson, the school’s audiovisual arts teacher, worked with about five of his students on the technical side of the ceremony.
“It was three straight days of three-hour days to get 100 kids through, and the math actually worked beautifully,” he said.
When the students entered the gym, they were greeted by video shout-outs from family. “We had people submit shout-outs from Germany and Italy and all over the world,” Johnson said, adding, “It was a really neat way for the graduates to start their ceremony while their parents got to the stage to get ready for the name introduction.”
Beaty expressed admiration for her graduating seniors, saying, “"They'll always be known as the kiddos that were born out of 9/11 and graduated in COVID-19 but they're so much more than that. These are children with great resilience."
An abbreviated version of the video is scheduled to air on Wednesday, May 13th at 7:00pm on channel 13. The full video, along with other prepared materials, will be available at the same time at http://hhsgraduation.com/.
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