Grandview Heights graduation ceremony set May 30, outdoors if weather cooperates
Grandview Heights High School's virtual graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 "was kind of like 'Graduation: The Movie,'" principal Rob Brown said.
The 2021 event will be "Graduation: Live on Stage," he said.
Last year's seniors were assigned a time to arrive, and five students at a time were escorted into the school building to walk across the auditorium stage and receive their diploma.
The ceremony was compiled and livestreamed on the day the commencement initially had been scheduled before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
This year's graduation ceremony, scheduled at 11 a.m. May 30, will be a nearly normal event, scheduled to be held outdoors in the high school stadium, with all the seniors sitting together and walking across the stage in front of family members to receive their diplomas.
"We're fortunate being a smaller school it's a little easier for us to accommodate a regular ceremony than some larger schools," Brown said. "It's just so nice that we're going to be able to have a regular graduation ceremony. I felt so bad for the seniors and their families last year that we could hold a normal graduation."
The May 30 ceremony will include a commencement speaker, whose identity is being kept a surprise until graduation day, Brown said.
Three seniors also will be selected to speak at the ceremony. A team of teachers and administrators will choose the speakers from among a roster of applicants, he said.
Each senior will be provided with eight tickets for their families to attend, and families will be spaced 6 feet from other families, Brown said.
"The big concern is if it rains," he said.
If it rains May 30 and the showers are expected to clear out later in the day, the ceremony will be delayed until that time, Brown said.
If the rain persists, the ceremony will be moved to the auditorium, and students will be limited to two family members, he said.
In either case, the ceremony will be livestreamed, with details to be announced soon, Brown said.
Other traditional events, including the senior walk and prom, are being held, although slightly modified, he said. During the senior walk on their last day of regular classes May 18, the students will visit Stevenson Elementary School and Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School before returning to the high school and walking to the football field for a ceremony.
"We may have more social distancing if students and staff (at the other schools) are going to clap for the seniors, and parents can stop by to cheer them on as they walk over to the football field as long as they maintain social distance," Brown said. "The senior walk is such an important milestone for students. Along with the actual graduation ceremony itself, it seemed to be the thing that last year's seniors were most disappointed missing out on."
The prom will be held from 8 to 11 p.m. May 22 at COSI's English Plaza outdoor area in a large tent.
"Students will be able to dance with their dates, but only in groups of six or three couples that will be properly spaced apart," Brown said.
Other activities, including the senior trip to Cedar Point, will not be held, he said.
Although that is usually a popular activity, seniors showed a lack of interest in other canceled events, including the baccalaureate and senior breakfast, Brown said.
The seniors thought that with COVID protocols, the breakfast would not have been the same, he said.
This year's senior class has achieved and overcome much, Brown said.
"Just getting through all the disruptions of the last year says a lot about their resilience," he said. "Talking to the members of the senior class, though, I'm finding that they don't want to be known simply as the 'COVID class.' They want to be recognized for all they've achieved, academically and otherwise."
The 85 seniors collectively were offered more than $8.71 million in scholarships, Brown said. As impressive is the character of the senior class, he said.
"This is a class full of remarkably hard-working leaders," Brown said.
The class is noteworthy for the many initiatives and clubs they have created, with a goal of improving the world and the lives of others, he said.
"They created two different anti-racism classes and clubs and have shown a real sense of empathy and concern for others, even before the pandemic," Brown said. "These were initiatives they started themselves, without any prompting."
Her classmates are committed to making a difference, senior class president Mia Marcellana said.
Issues such as racism and the environment are important to many seniors because they're affecting the world they live in, she said.
The fundraising efforts that normally would have been designed to help offset the costs of the prom and senior trip continued, but with a different mission, Marcellana said.
"We decided to establish scholarships and awarded $500 scholarships to six seniors based on their achievements in high school," she said.
The class also earmarked some of the proceeds to establish scholarships that will be awarded to students in the class of 2022, Marcellana said.
"It's kind of our legacy and paying forward," she said.
Seniors are relieved to be having a regular graduation ceremony, Marcellana said.
"It's good that we are able to all be together for the last couple months of school and for our graduation," she said. "I'm sorry that the senior trip can't be held because that's a big deal to get to go to Cedar Point and stay overnight, but we're glad we're able to be together for graduation."
Their senior year provided challenges, but it also has helped prepare them for the challenges that await in college and beyond, Marcellana said.
"A lot of us are like me – I've lived in Grandview all my life," she said. "It's impressive how many of my classmates are going to be going to college out of state and taking the big step of moving away from their families. They made that decision without even having a chance to visit the campus."
Marcellana will attend the Ohio State University and plans to major in health and rehabilitation sciences and pre-med.