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SALISBURY TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Salisbury High School holds virtual graduation to celebrate Class of 2020

Salisbury High School held a virtual graduation 9 p.m. July 22 for the Class of 2020 at Becky’s Drive-In, 4548 Lehigh Drive, Walnutport.

The virtual graduation held the same aspects of a traditional graduation: students receiving their diploma from the principal, as well as speeches from the valedictorian and salutatorian.

Principal Heather Morningstar said the student advisory originally presented the idea of a virtual graduation. However, the administration postponed making an official announcement before July 1, in hopes of potentially holding a traditional in-person graduation, but the increase in COVID-19 cases prevented them from doing so. Overall, Morningstar believes the community was “very accommodating.”

“We really wanted the kids to be able to still have some sense of community,” Morningstar said. “[The students] are certainly disappointed they don’t get a traditional ceremony, but we tried to do a lot of things to make this year special for them.”

Morningstar believes the various activities held for Salisbury’s graduating Class of 2020 brought the community together.

“A lot of people have really helped with different aspects of making graduation special for the kids,” Morningstar said. “…We’ve done some additional activities for them that we haven’t done for other classes. So, I just think that all of the community and staff have come together to show the Class of 2020 how much we wanted to celebrate them – it’s been a really nice experience.”

Spanish teacher Laura DosSantos agrees with Morningstar.

“I think that it’s a great opportunity to bring us back together, especially in the summer,” DosSantos said. “…We didn’t know if there was going to be a graduation, so I’m glad that there’s another opportunity for us to be in the same space, even socially distanced.”

As a teacher, DosSantos found it difficult being separated from her students but values the opportunity to celebrate them through a virtual graduation in the same space.

“It was really hard to be away from [the students] and teaching virtually,” DosSantos said. “Any opportunity that I’ve had since that’s happened, I’ve tried to take. You don’t take it for granted when you can’t be around them. This is just another opportunity for us to be together, even though you can’t completely engage. You can still see them and wave and cheer in their special time.”

To graduate Madison Lash, these community efforts did not go unnoticed.

“[It feels] as normal as it could be with the circumstances, but it still isn’t the same,” Lash said. “I did like when we did the parade, that was probably as normal as it’s gonna get. It’s nice that they’re at least doing something for us, but it does stink that we can’t have that walk across the stage. I’m still happy they did something though.”

Graduate Ernesto Fermin feels grateful for the opportunity to celebrate with his peers.

“[A virtual graduation] is definitely not what I expected, but I’m glad the school put effort into doing something – I know some schools didn’t have the opportunity to do anything,” Fermin said. “At least I get to be out with my teachers and my friends one more time and get to watch a video and some memories from the past couple of years, so it’s worth it.”

Although students already received their diplomas, Fermin sees the virtual graduation as an emotional “last goodbye.”

“I think this really puts the nail in the coffin; one last moment to say goodbye,” Fermin said. “Overall, I think this is going to give us more of a nostalgic feel and at the end of the day, everybody is going to be able to say goodbye and be happy that we’re all here.”

PRESS PHOTOS BY C. RICHARD CHARTRAND The Salisbury High School Class of 2020 holds its virtual graduation July 22 at Becky's Drive-In in Walnutport.
Attendees get comfortable to view the virtual graduation ceremony.
Trent and Kayla Renelli are in the back of their truck ready for the virtual graduation. Kayla graduated this year from Salisbury High School.
LEFT: Salisbury High School Class President Coralee Nesfeder welcomes everyone to the virtual graduation ceremony.
ABOVE: Class Salutatorian Paige Mathieu tells fellow students, “We are the Class of 2020 and we will embrace whatever comes our way.”
PRESS PHOTO BY C. RICHARD CHARTRAND “Beginnings are just another name for new experiences in life. We, along with the rest of the world, have new experiences in store for us,” Class of 2020 Valedictorian Olivia Hoeing said.