wIMG_5305001 (1)

By Rebecca Hyland

When students and staff were sent home in March, there was minimal concern as to when school would reopen. We knew spring sports could be temporarily delayed, and figured we would have an extended Spring Break.

Then plans were implemented for online learning: staff brushed up on virtual learning, Chromebooks were checked out and the realization that school would probably not resume hit us.

With that becoming a reality, more questions and concerns were voiced. What about our  DECA competitions? What about the greenhouse sales? What about prom? And what about graduation?

There was a lot of planning and thought put into the final decision about graduation.  Meetings and more meetings, input — whether solicited or not — and all kinds of second guessing. The decision was a drive thru ceremony, to be held in the front parking lot of the school.

Southern Lee High School under the leadership of principal Molly Poston held one classy, fun, tearful, unique and awesome graduation. It was felt from the first day of graduation; the ceremony was designed to make it special and memorable for the graduates and their families.

Each student got five minutes in the limelight. Each student could hear their name called out clearly. Each student got an individual proclamation declaring them graduates. Each student had time to take pictures.

Once the graduate left the stage they entered a “tunnel” filled with staff pictures wishing the graduates well. Each graduate took their time looking at the pictures and it was evident by their tears and comments it was appreciated. The final step was to visit the diploma tent to receive their diploma, yard sign and a t-shirt, each announcing them Southern Lee graduates.

Let me tell you what was witnessed at this very special event. Students proud of their heritage wore colorful sashes signifying their home countries. A student wore a lei made of money fashioned into flowers and butterflies.

ROTC students wore with pride their medals and ribbons. You saw an appreciation from the graduate and their parents that would have been impossible to convey on a larger stage. 

No, this was not a traditional graduation ceremony. No, this is not what students, families and staff pictured four years ago when they entered high school. But yes, it was a success.


Rebecca Hyland is an instructional assistant at Southern Lee High School in Sanford.