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 April 10, 2020.

In this weekly series, we will share a different angle on how schools and districts are choosing to handle graduation. This week we are talking about potential variations on the physical ceremony, and next week will share details about the new Jostens Virtual Commencement Center tools.

Recap from last week’s episode:

  • Ceremony carries significance for students, parents, and educators
  • We aren’t “cancelling” graduation – we are postponing it or rescheduling it
  • Communicate with your Class of 2020 members as their fear and frustration are high right now
  • Protect the ceremony and the rite of passage it grants to its participants

Drive-In Ceremony

  • Parade through town, with fire trucks – before or after ceremony
  • End up at drive-in theater
  • Use big screen to post pictures and live feed
  • Pre-recorded speeches from valedictorian, principal
  • Families stay in cars, use AM radio broadcast to hear audio
  • Graduate walk line socially distanced to get diploma
  • Organized cap toss by cars do yearbook staff can capture it
  • Can utilize “movie in the park” setup with screen and speakers if no official drive-in available
  • Keep equity in mind – how can students without access to cars participate?

Drive-Through Ceremony

  • Similar concept but using sports fields or parking lots on school campuses
  • Available to partner with local business with drive-thru line like local restaurant
  • Instead of getting out of cars and walking up, they would drive up, get out of car for a picture, drive back to parking spot
  • Keep equity in mind – how can students without access to cars participate?
  • For more details see this document from one of Jostens rep Bob Eldridge’s schools

Socially Distanced Senior Walk and Ceremony

  • One-on-one entrances
  • Think senior walk through the halls meets graduation ceremony in a gym or theater
  • Paced walk-throughs by seniors and families – last trip through the halls
  • Could hold signs with their plans for next year
  • Walk through halls ends in gym or theater where paced distance remains, but each graduate gets the “walk across the stage” moment and family gets front row spot to take pictures
  • Can play pomp and circumstance over the school intercom
  • Pre-record speeches by principal and valedictorian and alma mater
  • Cap toss can take place individually or as a group in an open space/field outside

Virtual Ceremony

Other ways to celebrate and recognize seniors

  • Have signs up on the wall for career ready, college bound, or military bound, and encourage taking pictures with them in caps and gowns, with family members by their side.
  • Create a special moment, adapting to current circumstances. A principal in Michigan went through a drive-through where a student was working to inform her she was the valedictorian and filmed it to honor that moment.
  • Go to students’ homes for Top Ten and Valedictorian notifications so parents can be there, and make pictures and videos available to the families.
  • Continue senior traditions in a new way. One school had a senior sunrise and sunset virtually, with all seniors posting a picture with a hashtag, then compiling the images into a video.
  • Kiss a Grad Goodbye, from Melissa Wright at Kennebecasis Valley High School. In school this was used as fundraiser, where anyone could write a card to a senior, and they would deliver it with a Hersheys Kiss to a senior (photo below). This year it was virtual and free – they sent out Google doc to the community to collect messages that will be distributed through virtual homerooms.
  • Awards night recognizing seniors for scholarships and future plans can be done virtually, with Zoom or other platforms.
  • Light up stadium lights to celebrate seniors, especially those missing spring sports seasons. One school is doing this at 8:20 (2020 in military time) each night.
  • Have the principal make a special video recognizing seniors, like this one from Vernon Hills High School in Illinois.
  • Jostens reps are doing all kinds of distributions to make sure seniors get their gear – drive-throughs, working with local businesses, and even driving door-to-door delivering caps and gowns.
  • Share the You Will Graduate video from Jostens.

Next week – Graduation Friday at 12:00 Eastern, with special guests:

  • Jostens rep Justin Ray to talk about importance of getting caps and gowns into seniors’ homes
  • Principal at Heritage High School Shameka Gerald to talk about administrators’ role in graduation decision-making
  • Senior student at Saginaw High School Janice Kankolongo to talk about the senior perspective
  • Special musical performance

Send your suggestions for creative graduation ceremonies or future topics to [email protected] or [email protected].


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