Fauquier, Liberty and Kettle Run high schools’ class of 2020 is having a slow-rolling gradation celebration, courtesy of COVID-19. What usually takes place over a few hours has been spread out over five days,-- while the students themselves are also spread out.
Graduates are accepting their diplomas and their principals’ congratulations before a very small audience, consisting of their parents and in some cases a few friends or siblings at a distance.
The one-at-a-time ceremonies have been low-key, less boisterous, but perhaps more personal. Each student has their own place in the spotlight. They are applauded, and the next student appears, five or six minutes later.
Each graduate, accompanied by parents or guardians, accepts their diploma and walks across a stage that is rather more modest than usual, to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Liberty High Principal Sam Cox and Assistant Principal Patrick Neidich agreed that after a while they stopped noticing the endless loop playing over the loudspeaker. Cox said that usually, he and other administrators are up on the Jiffy Lube Live stage when that song comes on. “When that music plays and the students are coming in and moving past us. It’s such a cool moment. When I hear that music, I think, ‘That’s what we are here for.’”
Thanks to a grant from the PATH Foundation, each senior has his or her picture taken several times during the brief ceremony by professional photographers. They will be able to access the photos for free, said PATH Communications Director Amy Petty.
And the change in protocol did not seem to dampen the pride parents felt for their children. When Kettle Run High School graduate Mary Katherine Behan accepted her diploma, her mother briefly drowned out “Pomp and Circumstance” with “You did it! We are so proud of you!”
Gabriella Biasillo, who was one of the Kettle Run students initially disappointed with the graduation plans, said, “The ceremony was beautiful. I am so grateful to all of the people who worked so hard to make this happen.”
Biasillo came prepared with her own confetti, and although she had lamented that she and her friends would not be shoulder to shoulder for the ceremony, she pointed to a hill high over the football field where a dozen or so students watched over the proceedings. “There are my friends. They came,” she said.