CHHS Hosts a Socially Distanced Event for Graduates
After weeks when the Chapel Hill High School (CHHS) campus only held construction vehicles and workers, a noisy, colorful parade of seniors visited their school in cars on May 4 from 10:00-2:00. The occasion was a pre-graduation “drive-through” when seniors picked up their cap and gowns, received a gift and had their pictures taken, all from an appropriate social distance. The smiles were broad and joyful, and hoots and hollers rang out from many of the decorated cars.
During this unique time in high school seniors’ lives, what seem like countless losses mount as students mourn their cancelled proms, senior pranks, and perhaps the full Smith Center graduation ceremonies. What will still be left, to mark this emotional and meaningful transition? Why not a festive drive-through?
Festive it was, with black and yellow balloons billowing from trees and columns, a loudspeaker blaring music and the beloved mascot tiger, waving and jumping and down, despite a furry costume in the 80 degree sunlight. For an hour in the morning, a crew from WRAL joined and filmed the celebration, creating a news video that ran on the evening news the same night.
Kimberlee Spores’ triplets are among the 365 seniors in the Class of 2020. She serves as vice-president of the CHHS PTSA. “The plans came together quickly,” Spores said. The PTSA hosted a senior parent planning call on Saturday, April 25 via Zoom to brainstorm ideas, and we continued conversations via email with Mr. Blanchard. When he mentioned the cap and gown distribution and asked for some school spirit, the parent's rallied.”
Blanchard agreed to let parents paint the columns in front of the entrance a brilliant yellow, with every graduate's name and paw prints painted in black along the sidewalk-- Tiger colors. Parent Abbe Simon reached out to the CHHS community to make signs showing support for the seniors, and it all came together. The gift of a Class of 2020 yard sign for every senior and the keepsake "photo-booth" picture will provide tangible reminders of the day for our graduates.
Elisabeth Charney, a CHHS junior, is also the sister of a graduating Tiger. What better way to honor her sister and classmates than sacrifice comfort and dance around in costume for hours. “Even though it was so hot, it was totally worth it,” Charney said. “Getting to see the smiles on so many of these seniors' faces gave me chills, and it was so easy to celebrate them. It definitely wasn’t anything like a graduation, but it was so special, and the whole day was just so happy. I was smiling so big under my tiger head!
Spores said, “In our house, we are certainly sad the triplets are having a non-traditional senior year, but the extra time we’ve had together during lockdown has been special. Soon enough they will be heading in three different directions for college, and today was one of several send offs we hope to provide them before they take flight.”
Principal Charles Blanchard dutifully wore his mask throughout the day, but you could still tell he was smiling. “This was my personal best day since schools closed on March 13,” Blanchard said. “It’s been hard to miss seeing our students for so long. Seeing and celebrating our seniors today brought so much joy!”