On May 13, teachers Patricia Jacobsen and Michelle Myers delivered a lawn sign and T-shirt to senior Jackson Crawford. (Photo courtesy of Myers)

Graduation to feature drive-thru celebration, toasts, video tribute

Seniors will receive their diplomas during a drive-thru graduation on June 4 at 7 p.m., head of high school Brooke Wells announced on May 27.

The celebration will feature a DJ; balloons; stations for apple cider, gifts and diplomas; toasts; and honking horns. At 8 p.m., a downloadable video tribute to the seniors will premier.

“We’ll be acknowledging each senior individually and expressing our admiration and fondness for each and every one of them,” Wells said. “I’m trying to make sure they know that they’re honored, respected and congratulated by the school.” 

Additionally, Wells said teachers will be on campus on June 3 to distribute yearbooks. Drive-thrus are scheduled hourly, beginning with freshmen at 8:30 a.m. and ending with seniors at 11:30 a.m. Students will drop off their school supplies then.

Wells said he brainstormed graduation with teachers on Zoom. 

Senior Charles Thomas said he likes the plans.

“I don’t know the technicalities behind them, but I really appreciate what the school is doing,” Thomas said. “I love that they’re going out of their way to accommodate the senior class, and it makes me really appreciate the community we have at Country Day.” 

Senior Garrett Shonkwiler receives his lawn sign on May 13. (Photo courtesy of Shonkwiler)

Senior Emma Boersma disagreed.

“My biggest issue isn’t graduation but the lack of transparency within the faculty and their unwillingness to communicate with students and parents about something that’s for us,” she said. “I get that they’re trying hard to make it special, but the best thing they could’ve done was to be open with us.”

Wells responded: “Under normal circumstances, I would have loved to have worked with the seniors and gathered some of their ideas about how to hold the end-of-the-year celebrations and events. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and all of the many pieces that shifted as we moved school online and worked to keep our community safe and maintain our excellent education, we just didn’t have time to think about consulting the senior class about their celebrations until most plans had been set.

“We did solicit some feedback early on from a group of seniors in advisories, and some students felt that we should have postponed graduation rather than go through with the video/remote plan. Unfortunately, this was not an option due to the restrictions that seem likely to continue throughout the summer. Doing a graduation ceremony in the fall or winter did not make sense, logistically.”

Wells earlier announced the cancellation of prom, originally scheduled for April 18 on a boat on San Francisco Bay and then moved to May 23 on campus. 

“The faculty and I decided that postponing prom wasn’t reasonable assuming the situation we’re in,” Wells said. 

Thomas said he felt the school had done enough to accommodate seniors and there was no need for prom this year. 

Boersma disagreed.

“I wish that we had a makeup prom because I was so pumped for this year’s, especially with it being on a boat,” she said. “Some of my friends who hadn’t gone to last year’s prom were going to go because it’s their senior year, and this was their only chance.”

In lieu of a ceremony, the high school awards were announced in a newsletter on May 26.

“It’s not the same as an in-person ceremony, but what they’re doing for us is amazing,” Thomas said. “A lot of scholarships that seniors may be applying for have deadlines, and they need to know if they got those awards so they can put it on their application. I appreciate the school’s efficiency in trying to get those to us because it doesn’t have to go out of its way for us.”

Another annual tradition, the senior dinner, was postponed until Dec. 18.

While Boersma and Thomas said they’re glad the dinner will be held, Boersma said she doesn’t understand why it needs to be pushed as far as December when it’s unclear how long the quarantine will last. 

Furthermore, lawn signs and T-shirts were delivered to seniors on May 13.

Teachers delivered these lawn sign and “Friends”-inspired T-shirts to seniors on May 13. (Photo by Larkin Barnard-Bahn)

Thomas said he appreciated the gesture, adding that the teachers have gone above and beyond for the senior class this year.

Boersma said she wasn’t home when the sign was dropped off, adding that most of her friends said it was annoying the signs were delivered during their AP exams. 

Additionally, the senior seminars became interactive Zoom presentations available to members of the Country Day community, which was inspired by an Octagon editorial, according to Wells.

The presenters were: U.S. attorney McGregor Scott (“What exactly does the United States Attorney do? Reflections on a career as a prosecutor”); Duke University professor Sarah Gaither, ’03, (“Diversity Science in Academia and Beyond”); Ben Gumpert, Country Day trustee and president/COO of Sacramento Republic FC, (“The Business of Sports”); and Morgan Bennett-Smith, ’13, marine biology graduate student and photographer (“Alaska to Arabia: studying and photographing biology in the field”).

—By Jacob Chand

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