Cape Coral High School held graduation Tuesday for its Class of 2020 and it’s safe to say it’s one for the record books if not exactly Mom’s memory scrapbook.
Due to the pandemic, graduates received their diplomas via a “drive-thru” graduation Tuesday morning as did seniors at all Lee County schools this week, with students and parents coming in throughout the morning to receive their diplomas and then have a photo taken with loved ones and their principal.
Rob Spicker, Lee County School District spokesman, said while it was disappointing that the district could not hold traditional graduations, students deserved the celebration of their success.
“All our high schools have set up a ceremony this week where they can drive through, pick up their diploma and get their pictures taken in their cap and gown,” Spicker said. “We will remember this class’ perseverance. This was their senior year. It was what they were looking forward to and it was interrupted.”
Principal Christian Englehart said it was a strange way to end an even stranger year.
“This isn’t something any of us could even envision when the school year started, but it’s an amazing group of kids and it’s nice to send them off on a positive note,” Englehart said.
Students arrived in the back parking lot and had their temperatures taken. They then drove to the bus loop and were handed their diplomas and a rose.
They then made their way to the main entrance for their photos, with “Pomp and Circumstance” playing in the background.
It wasn’t the same for many of those who came.
“It’s better than nothing. I wasn’t picturing this. I am going to miss my friends and my teachers,” said Haley Byrd.
“I don’t think anyone can expect this. This is new to everyone. At least they got something for us that made it seem like graduation,” said Braden Cohen. “We didn’t go on without saying our proper goodbyes.”
Isabella Fe Ico, senior class president, said the day felt surreal, considering everything they had been through.
“I never thought I would see administrative staff and friends again, but being able to do this is something we all needed to have — that last feeling of going out with a bang,” said Fe Ico, who will attend the University of Florida to study pharmacy. “It’s awesome that we got to do a little something.”
Cohen’s father, Mike, said he appreciated what the school system had done to recognize the graduates, but agreed it wasn’t the same.
“It’s making the best out of a bad situation. We were looking forward to a prom and a formal graduation. They worked really hard to earn this, but it won’t be like the real thing,” Mike said. “We’re really proud of Braden and really happy to have this day.”
One of the few benefits of this kind of graduation is that it was less formal. Some of the graduates didn’t wear a cap or gown, and others did their photo with fellow graduates.
Steven Clayton and Judah Aviles took their photo with a tape measure, making sure they practiced social distancing by staying six feet apart.
“People don’t question the weirdness when things are so weird, and it’s been weird. We went on spring break and everything went crazy and we weren’t able to come back,” Clayton said. “The online classes weren’t fun. It sounds great. You’re staying at home. But it’s not great.”