NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — All-day Thursday at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven, hundreds of graduates slowly made their way across a makeshift stage. It was a ceremony unlike any other in the school’s 100-year history. It had all the pomp but in very unusual circumstances.
“Usually, we get to see our kids, I get to talk to our kids,” said Wilbur Cross High School principal Edith Johnson. “I have one last meeting with them on this day in the auditorium.”
Instead, it was a slow parade of one car at a time with one graduate, and however many family members could fit inside.
“Right now, I’m sad because I’m leaving all my friends behind,” said graduate Roy-al Spell. “But I’m happy because I get to finish high school.”
Spell’s mom April Crimley knows all the things her son did not get to do because of the pandemic.
“Yeah, I am sad, because they don’t get to have a prom,” said Crimley. “This graduation was nice, but it’s not like the regular graduation, the regular graduation that would have been.”
The pandemic will not be here forever, however. The memories, and the education they got, will remain.
“We have 363 graduates. Many going into the military,” Johnson said. “About 87% got into a 2 or 4-year college.”
Including Roxana Chica, who is heading to Gateway Community College in the fall. She decorated her mortarboard with a thank you to her parents.
“Thanks to them, I’m here,” Chica said. “Without them supporting me, I would have not made the stage.”
Along the way, each graduate learned a lot of lessons from school and then learned a few more from the pandemic.
“Stay positive. show love to everybody, that’s what I’ve learned,” Spell said.
“It was a little hard at first, but as we progressed, I also got to adapt to it,” explained graduate Carole Nyenyezi, who head to UConn in the fall to study engineering. “So it got easier and easier.”
It was certainly not the graduation that any of them could have imagined 4 years ago, or even 4 months ago, but it is certainly one they are never going to forget.