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High schools turning to drive-thru graduations during COVID-19 crisis

Students support the social distancing, some parents feel cheated
Posted at 12:35 PM, May 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-08 15:46:39-04

For the class of 2020, graduation ceremonies are getting more creative.

Seniors like Jerry Feng at Etiwanda High School in Southern California are now driving in cars with their families and wearing commemorative masks on their faces – instead of turning the tassels on their caps.

“It was quite an emotional experience seeing our teachers and our school again after such a long time,” he said.

Feng and his classmates have been out of school for months because of coronavirus concerns.

Recently, hundreds of students returned to campus by car to take part in what’s becoming a growing trend across the country: a drive-thru graduation ceremony.

“I, as their principal, I owe it to them,” said Mac Wolfe, Ph.d., Etiwanda High School principal. “I owe it to the class of 2020 to recognize them.”

He says it took months of planning with local health and city leaders to pull off this emotional social distancing celebration.

“You see tears, you see the emotions from parents you see the emotions from kids as they come up and its exciting,” Wolfe said.

Exciting for some, however, a bit disappointing for others.

“They just got cheated out of so much,” said Noey Aguilera, whose daughter Jacqueline recently graduated from Etiwanda High School.

Noey says she supports social distancing, but seeing her daughter walk across an empty stage to receive her diploma was underwhelming.

“You just sit there,” she said. “You go into your car and you sit there and you’re just like is that it.”

For Feng, however, he’s not focusing on what he missed – rather appreciating what he’s learned.

“I think it’s a great wake up call for our society to be more grateful and appreciate what we already have,” he said.

Etiwanda high will release a graduation video online at the end of the month. Capturing how the education system was able to adapt during this pandemic.

“To me as an educator it says we’re in good hands moving forward,” Wolfe said.

Moving forward, Feng says this pandemic inspired him to study global health policies at Yale University while Aguilera will join the US Army with the hopes of being a combat medic.