ALBANY — The coronavirus may have taken away Class of 2020 graduates’ magical moment of having their names called in a facility filled with their and their fellow grads’ friends and family, but that didn’t stop Westover High School officials from giving their graduates a special send-off.
Vehicles backed up for several blocks Monday morning, as Westover’s Class of ‘20 was afforded the opportunity to drive through the school’s parking lot, have their names announced as they — most accompanied by family members — celebrated Memorial Day with a unique graduation ceremony. WHS Principal William Chunn, dressed in full graduation regalia, including corona-preventing gloves and mask — which left the long-time administrator sweating in the blazing mid-morning sun — received students’ diplomas from staff members, who worked quickly and efficiently to find each individual student’s coveted “piece of paper,” and handed it through vehicle windows to grinning seniors.
Lining the route were parents and supporters, many of them holding signs of congratulations for individual graduates and the class in general.
“We wanted to do something to make graduation as special as possible for this group of seniors,” Chunn said in between bestowing diplomas. “These seniors earned it.”
The parents and friends who lined the path driven by the graduates cheered as each name was called and cheered again when the diploma for each was bestowed by Chunn.
“The kids were so disappointed not to get to walk for their diplomas,” Sally Dugger, a Westover teacher whose son was among the graduates, said as she sat with a sign of congratulations. “They were all looking forward to that special moment, but it just didn’t happen. This, though, gives them some of the special meaning that graduation usually brings to students.”
Westover had 304 seniors who qualified to receive their diplomas, most among the 739 in the Dougherty County School System who were a part of the Class of ‘20. The system held a virtual graduation ceremony for all seniors on Saturday, including seniors at Westover, Dougherty and Monroe high schools.