Part of the Virtual Culture and Climate Series – Spring 2020

Ideas contributed by the Jostens Renaissance educator community and shared in a Facebook Live presentation on May 8, 2020.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Teachers are working harder than ever before. It shouldn’t take a special week to do it, but we THANK YOU.

Today we’re highlighting what schools are doing for graduation ceremonies – some are happening very soon – and more ideas for recognizing seniors.

Graduation Ceremonies

Flagler County School District in Florida – Two of their high schools will be celebrating at Daytona Beach International Speedway. Each graduate gets to bring one car, and they’ll get to do a lap around the track and collect diplomas at the finish line. The ceremony will be broadcast via radio and live-streamed on the district web site. That will be a special and memorable experience for everyone.

Franklin Simpson High School in Kentucky – They’re postponing Prom, but still executing on all the senior rites of passage including senior sports awards nights, baccalaureate, and Light the Night. Then they will have a drive-through graduation, and will compile photos and video of all these into a senior video. They are also honoring and celebrating their workforce-ready graduates, not just college bound seniors.

MSA West in Plaquemine, Louisiana – Principal Emily Martin wanted to create memories for her 73 seniors. School resource deputy Troy Doiron suggested that they build a stage on a trailer – a sort of portable graduation stage. They drove to every senior’s house accompanied by a police escort and a DJ booth, and with the principal and teachers cheering them on, students put on their full regalia and walked across stage to get their awards and diplomas.

Some Good NewsIf you’re not catching these episodes on YouTube from John Krasinski, you’re missing out on a dose of positivity. He’s sharing positive stories from real live people, and last week he had an episode focused on graduation. Thanks to Tom Cody from Top 20 Training, who made sure we watched this one. Right around the 11-minute mark to the end of the show, he hosted his own graduation ceremony. He had sent out an open call to anyone graduating, with questions they’d want their speaker to answer. He wanted to orchestrate a commencement conversation so he reached out to his celebrity friends, and four are highlighted on the video: Oprah, Steven Spielberg, Jon Stewart, and Malala. We wanted to share their wisdom for the graduates:

A dream hangs on to you as much as you hang on to it. If it doesn’t, it’s not really a dream.

 Failure is an opportunity to move yourself in a different direction.

 Stop completing things and start living them.

 When you see dark clouds, remember there are rainbows in the clouds. The sun is always there.

 We don’t get to graduate, but we are still safe and not everyone gets to say that.

 I am the captain of my own ship and I will write my story.

 Let no opportunity be too small for your time, and no opportunity be too big for your possibilities.

Bixby High School in Oklahoma – We heard from Dewayne Patterson, and they did a graduation parade where all the seniors got to decorate their cars however they wanted, wore their caps and gowns and paraded through town, starting and ending at the school. The parade was led by the teachers who have retired, and featured 280 cars and one senior on her horse. Their actual ceremony will be in June but they wanted to do something for their seniors now.

Other Ways to Celebrate Seniors

Senior Letters – We used to write letters to our seniors, saying we loved them and were excited for their future, and describing what we love about them. It was our way of saying goodbye, and was special for them as well. I just heard from a student that looks at her letter from me once in a while and it brightens her day. We would also suggest having your faculty record life wisdom and put them together in a video for your seniors.

SRO Home Visits – An SRO from a high school in Ohio visits every senior individually at home, leaving a Class of 2020 yard sign and having a personal conversation with them. There are 310 seniors in the class so he’s spending several weeks doing it. Remember the important role SRO’s play in school culture.

Canyon Hills Junior High in Chino, California – Renaissance Hall of Famer Valerie Vera-Mineer is doing virtual recognition and reward ceremonies that would work well for seniors also. They always do a reward breakfast, and tomorrow morning is virtual recognition breakfast – 26 teachers and 26 students received a video link and are gathering at 8:00 AM in beach attire to eat together virtually. The school librarian helped write out certificates that will be sent by mail.

Vancleave High School in Mississippi – They had a yard sign made for every senior and posted them in the school’s front yard along with a large 2020 display. Students will receive these signs when they pick up their cap and gown. To recognize senior athletes, they had a parade and lit the sports fields for 20 minutes and 20 seconds on 4/20/20, and had an amazing turnout. The fire department came and had a huge American flag and honored their seniors. They have a senior parade planned for the week prior to graduation, and are holding a virtual awards ceremony for citizenship and outstanding student awards. 

Knox County Schools in Tennessee – Last week we shared how they were numerous using billboards on I-40 to honor the Class of 2020. The picture below shows just a few of these designs.

Collinsville High School in Texas – Here’s another example of senior photo banners and how cool they look when they are lined up like this (above). This photo shows them all along the main road running through the small community.

Stafford High School in Arizona painted a wall on their campus as a photo backdrop for seniors to put on their caps and gowns and take photos in front of it. It’s both a tribute and a backdrop.

West Craven High School in North Carolina – Their principal dresses in full graduation regalia, gets teachers to perform in a parade, and hand delivers 220 yard signs to graduates’ homes. They found a way to combine all the elements we’ve been showing – recognition, regalia, yard signs, parade, and individual connections with students.

Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada – Gabrielle Marie joined us to share that they’re launching a series of mini-virtual rallies tonight called Late Night Rallies with Renaissance! Visit their YouTube channel, LHHS Renaissance.


Virtual Commencement Center

Three weeks ago we talked about the Virtual Commencement Center, free to all schools

Virtual Commencement Center – enter the code provided by your local Jostens rep.

Virtual Commencement Flipbook

If you’re still considering a virtual ceremony, or virtual aspects to a ceremony, remember that Jostens has these webinars you can attend. What does a virtual ceremony look like, and what are the options to execute? The webinar will walk you through commencement speeches, all the things to consider, and other resources. There’s one this afternoon, and Monday, Wednesday and Friday of next week. Reach out to your Jostens rep to join, and if you’re not sure who that is, go to and enter your school, city and state to find out. All this comes from Jostens at no cost.

 Jostens also has a variety of signs, banners, and chenille letters to make it easy to recognize seniors. See last week’s post or ask your Jostens rep for details.

Guest Musical Performance

Brooks Campbell, lead vocalist in his School of Rock band.


Next Week: Motivation Monday – 11:00 CST, Monday, May 11.

Send your suggestions for recognizing seniors or future topics to [email protected] or [email protected].

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