Eighth-grade commencement ceremony: COVID style
St. John the Baptist School in Kenmore celebrated its 88th graduating class on June 16. Festivities began with the awarding of diplomas during a reverse parade at the entrance of the parish church followed by an evening celebration at the Transit Drive-In.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in the March closure of schools and subsequent distance learning, students returned to St. John’s campus to celebrate their eighth-grade graduation with faculty and staff. Families remained in their cars as they were greeted by cheering teachers and staff lining the perimeter of the school’s triangular campus. As they approached the front doors of the church, the location where ceremonies traditionally take place, students were greeted by Father Michael Parker and Principal Jenny Bainbridge to receive their diploma, year book, class photo and gift, as well as a “warm fuzzy,” a beloved cotton-ball-like-creature wearing a graduation cap that symbolizes friendship, love, and belonging, a kindergarten tradition.
The parade continued as families and the faculty headed to the Transit Drive-In to view the graduation ceremony on the “big screen,” albeit presented in a creative form given the pandemic limitations. “St. John’s has a time-honored graduation tradition that includes Mass, ribbon ceremony, traditional parent and student prayers, and so on,” said Bainbridge. “And although this isn’t how we expected to honor the Class of 2020, we’re glad to be able to celebrate them.”
The screening included a pre-recorded prayer service and the presentation of the graduates. Traditional class awards and scholarships were awarded, including the NYS Attorney General’s “Triple C Award” for Courage, Commitment and Character, and The Joseph and Joan Denzak Memorial Scholarship awarded each year to an eighth-grade student planning to attend a Catholic high school who demonstrated exceptional academic effort. During the ceremony, traditional class ribbons were pinned onto each student by his or her parent as seventh-grade student council representatives virtually honored the Class of 2020 and recognized the passing of leadership from one class to the next.
Additionally, the video included an address from Principal Bainbridge and a special message from Dean of discipline and beloved middle-school Social Studies teacher, James Werick, as well a poignant moment for students and parents exchanged letters previously prepared that are traditionally shared on class night. The presentation culminated with a parent prepared video of the students’ elementary school days. Afterwards, families enjoyed a movie provided by the Transit Drive-In.
“We wanted to end our graduates’ time at St. John’s on a very positive note,” Bainbridge said. “Many have been part of St. John’s School for a decade and all share in our special school bond. Although these milestones look very different this year, we could not be more proud of our students. We are truly honored to celebrate the 88th graduating class of St. John’s School and all they have accomplished!”