Graduation realization

By CONNIE NOLEN | Community Columnist

Pelham High School graduations are a spring staple for PHS teachers. Most rarely missed a graduation—and yet, Graduation 2020, like any other pandemic gathering, gives us all pause.

Years ago, PHS Graduations happened in the school’s gymnasium, then the Pelham Amphitheatre, before moving back indoors to Hunter Street Baptist Church and finally finding a home at the the Pelham Civic Complex.

Yet, my memory recalls no stadium graduation. An outdoor graduation seems like the most prudent graduation with what’s known about COVID-19. And we certainly want the class of 2020 to experience both the closure and the launch that a graduation ceremony brings.

Will students choose to walk? Would attending graduation from afar be possible? The message that I’m seeing most often from seniors is “You’re coming to graduation, right?”

Do students really care if teachers attend graduation? Teachers are academic coaches. Teachers matter at graduations the way that coaches matter at awards banquets. We’re not head coaches. We’re strength training coaches. Teachers attend graduation to silently affirm that we witnessed the sweat, the struggle, the stress—and we’re so proud of our students for challenging themselves, realizing goals, and recognizing the potential within themselves to be who they’re called to be.

Leaving home with graduation on my mind, I decide to drive by the high school stadium and see if a stage has been set up. I happen upon a parent, a sister, a photographer and three students I know and love posing in their caps and gowns.

Maintaining a safe social distance, I stop to ask if I can take a photo also. They agree and share what they’ve been doing this spring. They are thrilled over graduation.