BERLIN – Cars paraded amid a bevy of balloons and cheers Thursday as Worcester Preparatory School celebrated its senior class.
As the global coronavirus pandemic has shuttered schools and forced the cancelation of events worldwide, the Worcester Prep community came together to celebrate the class of 2020 with a drive thru parade in the school parking lot May 21, the day before what would have been their high school graduation.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but I do think yesterday was a huge help,” senior Quinn McColgan said. “It was a little bit of what everyone needed.”
Schools throughout Maryland closed in mid-March to help stop the spread of COVID-19. As the 10-day closure turned into distance learning, seniors began to realize that so many of the events they’d planned to participate in to commemorate their last year of high school—prom, spring sports, senior week—would not take place.
“At first it was tough,” said Sam Tinkler, president of Worcester Prep’s senior class. “But then everybody got used to expecting things to be canceled.”
Aware of the disappointment spreading through the senior class, administrators at Worcester Prep have worked to find new ways to celebrate graduates. Students have been spotlighted on social media, received personalized yard signs, and on Thursday were recognized with a drive thru parade in the school’s back parking lot. Teachers, administrators and community members—including representatives of the Berlin Fire Company and Berlin Police Department—gathered to cheer on seniors. Students, some driving their own vehicles and others waving through sunroofs, each received a gift bag full of Worcester Prep mementos and notes from their teachers. After students had passed through the parade they parked at the end to cheer on the students behind them.
“That was the first time we were all really able to see each other,” Tinkler of Berlin said. “I thought it was great—probably more fun than traditional graduation.”
McColgan was pleased to even see past teachers who have since retired among those cheering graduates on. For her, it was being reunited with the school community that was so special.
“It’s getting to be with everybody,” she said. “That’s the part everybody missed the most.”
McColgan of Millsboro, Del. and Tinkler both said they appreciated the school’s efforts to celebrate seniors during a difficult time. When asked how he’d sum up his senior year, Tinkler simply said “unusual.”
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it in a negative way,” he said, adding that while it was disappointing to miss certain events he’d picked up some new hobbies during his time at home and still had the summer to look forward to.
Acting Head of School Mike Grosso said the school was happy to provide a lasting memory to the seniors on campus. He said it was a unique celebration he will remember forever.
“Our senior class is a special group of young men and women and we needed to find ways to make special moments considering every challenge that they had during this spring,” Grosso said. “Worcester Preparatory School’s traditional graduation ceremony is one of the most special events of the year but due to the current circumstances we needed to adapt. In times of necessity, new traditions are born. It was so nice to see the smiles – and some tears – as our senior class drove through our lot being cheered on by faculty and staff. This indeed was a special moment and a memory to last a lifetime.”
Today, the school will release a graduation video for the families of the senior class. In addition, the school is planning on presenting the students with their diplomas during an outside ceremony next month.
“On Friday, June 12, at 10 a.m., we are planning a diploma ceremony on the varsity lacrosse field,” Grosso said. “We will invite just the students and their parents to receive the diploma and get a photo. Most of this planning revolves around what restrictions will be in place at that time.”
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