Officially, Plant High’s graduation is still on for July 14 at 8 p.m. (as of the time this article went to print). But with the CDC still advising against group gatherings, what that ceremony will look like is still unclear. To ensure its senior class still had some way to mark its achievements, the Plant High administration, PTSA and Academic Foundation worked together to turn a run-of-the-mill cap and gown pickup process into an unforgettable, socially distanced celebration in the school parking lot.
“Plant High doesn’t do anything small,” says principal Johnny Bush with a laugh. He had seen the principal at Brandon’s Bloomingdale High School have teachers come out to the school parking lot with decorated signs as seniors drove through, similar to the car parades that had been popping up in neighborhoods around the country to celebrate birthdays or other occasions. Bush thought that could work at Plant, so he worked with his administration and other school organizations to have teachers and faculty (some in full academic regalia, like they’d wear to graduation) cheer on students as they drove from one side of the school to the other and picked up their cap and gown from staff members set up outside.
Cars were fully decked out with balloons, streamers, window paint and signs in Plant’s black and gold, the colors of students’ soon-to-be colleges and universities, and congratulatory messages for the class of 2020. Many students were joined in their vehicles by parents, friends and even pets to bask in their accomplishments.
“[Senior year] shouldn’t be defined by this event, this gloomy feeling you have on graduation,” Bush says. “Graduation is a ceremony and something to look forward to, and it’s unfortunate that this happened.”
“What [was] on our minds [was], how can we recognize the senior class?” he adds. “Because they’ve done more for Plant than we can ever do for them.”