A line of cars dotted the front parking lot of Groveport Madison High School for more than six hours May 23 as graduating seniors and their families took part in a modified diploma-presentation ceremony.
The event, which was livestreamed on the district's YouTube channel, allowed students to walk across a 12-by-20-foot covered stage set up in the lot. Students were assigned alphabetically to specific time slots then waited in their vehicles with family members until their names were called. They then walked onto the stage, collected their diplomas and posed for photos taken by their families.
Families were asked to remain in their vehicles at all times -- only one vehicle per student was allowed. Once a student left to collect the diploma, family members were able to drive to a location where they had a centered view before picking up students at the far end of the stage.
Graduates then moved to a second location on the left side of the stage where photos were taken by the school's photographer.
Jeff Warner, the district's director of communications and community relations, said the ceremony went off without issue.
"The May 23 conferring of diplomas went exceptionally well," Warner said. "It was a beautiful, sunny day, which made the event all the more pleasant. The event went very smoothly."
And while it wasn't an ideal graduation experience, Groveport Madison seniors said they appreciated the fact that they were given any sort of in-person ceremony at all.
Patience Cox, 18, plans to attend Ohio State University. She said it was important that her family was able to watch her walk in the ceremony.
"Having my family there was not only important, but required," she said. "It would have taken away from them also if they weren't able to attend, so I'm glad they were able to witness my milestone."
To many students like 17-year-old Lizarely Martinez, who is also headed to OSU, the changes prompted by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic produced an experience that didn't always match students' expectations for graduation.
"It was strange and not at all the graduation I had dreamed of since I was a freshman," she said. "I know that Groveport Madison did what they thought was best due to the pandemic going on and I appreciate their efforts to keep us safe."
Mackenzie Maddy, 17, said she was disappointed to miss the end of her senior year. She will be playing softball at Fairmont State in West Virginia, but the pandemic that closed schools throughout Ohio also forced the cancellation of spring sports.
"The diploma ceremony at GMHS was a very short but bittersweet moment," Maddy said. "I thought that this event was very organized by our staff and I appreciate all of their efforts in regards to giving us a way to celebrate this major accomplishment.
"Things seemed to be thought-out thoroughly by allowing us to receive recognition while practicing safe measures during this time."