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Drive in a student, drive out a graduate

CCA hands out diplomas, in the driveway
Clear Creek Amana High School faculty members celebrate a senior’s graduation Friday, May 22, during a drive-through event at the high school in Tiffin. Seniors dropped off school property and received their diplomas with the final stop being to receive their senior banner and the congratulations of their teachers and coaches.

TIFFIN– Graduation, a tradition as old as formal education itself. For the high school senior, it is an event 12 years in the making and meant to be a formal acknowledgement of their accomplishments now and in the future. The final hours of being a high school student are filled with primping and preening, adjusting that Oxford Cap a few hundred times, confusion over which side the tassel should hang from, selfies with friends and family, dozens of other photos, and perhaps even checking the program to see who lines up behind who. On cue, they walk into a gym or an auditorium to the time-honored notes of “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the school band. The choir sings, speeches are made, and then the walk across the stage for the diploma folder while shaking hands with the superintendent and a school board member. Finally, with everybody again seated, those hats fly, and they are no longer a student, but a graduate.
Welcome to the age of COVID-19, where such ceremony was scrapped at Clear Creek Amana High School in Tiffin in the name of flattening the curve through social distancing, and in consideration of the complications in spacing out 130-some graduates and their parents, as well as a state-level moratorium on gatherings of more than 10 people.
Friday, May 22, was to have been the evening of the 2020 Commencement Exercise (graduation). Instead, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the seniors received their diplomas in a drive-through fashion. They came singly, with a few friends, or with family. The first stop was to drop off any books or other school property. The next stop was for the return of the school-issued Chromebook. Technology Director Joe Francis will go through each one, making repairs, cleaning them, and preparing them for whatever the 2020-2021 school year may bring.
After taking care of the school’s business, the seniors stopped at tables staffed by the Post Prom Committee, with bags full of goodies they would have given away earlier, but for the cancellation (due to the pandemic) of the prom. And then, it was about a 50-foot drive to where Principal Mark Moody stood in gloves and a facemask with tables full of brown envelopes containing diplomas and other items, all arranged alphabetically. The final stop for the new graduate was down by the stadium where individual photo banners of the seniors were hung upon the fence. A platoon of faculty greeted each senior with cheers and applause.
No, it wasn’t the traditional commencement. Instead of “Pomp and Circumstance,” top-40 music blasted from the stadium scoreboard’s speakers (which were being repaired at the time). Speaking of the scoreboard, it showed 20-20 in honor of the class of 2020.
A virtual graduation ceremony was shown on YouTube that evening with comments from Moody, Senior Class President Raina Henze, Valedictorians Brett Lund, Anna Schwarting, Lasya Yakkala, Sarah Stewart and Rachel Bernacki. Individual slides with a photo and favorite memories followed.
The ceremony can be viewed on the district’s YouTube Channel (Clear Creek Amana Schools).