Students from Stonington High School will enjoy a one-car per graduate celebration at Olde Mistick Village on Friday, June 19, while Wheeler High School’s graduates will have a parade and pre-recorded video commencement ceremony in their honor the night before.
It’s not how either school district hoped they’d be celebrating, but officials in both Stonington and North Stonington said they hope the alternative plans will still help to highlight and celebrate the strengths and successes of the class of 2020. In a world still dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the events will still provide the two communities with a chance to recognize the students’ accomplishments.
“We wanted to be different, to do something special that they could still look back upon fondly,” said Wheeler High Principal Kristen St. Germain. “We are planning on using the money for prom and other events to produce a nice evening that will really let the town celebrate these graduates.”
For those in North Stonington, St. Germain graduation day has come each year with an almost festival-like atmosphere. Members of the community, many who were not related to any graduates, would line their cars up and show support. It made the ceremonies seem truly community-oriented.
With that in mind, St. Germain said they will once again be calling on members of the community to come out with their vehicles in recognition of the graduating class.
Under a plan approved by the Board of Education Wednesday, Wheeler will host its first graduate parade on June 18 at 6 p.m. During the event, St. Germain said students would be partnered in groups of five, with one group in front of the high school, a second behind the school and others strategically placed in the nearby downtown area. The entire community would then be encouraged to come out and celebrate the seniors, providing them with a parade of visible support.
“It seemed every other school was doing something where the students would be in cars. We wanted to break the mold and do something that would get the seniors out of vehicles and put them in the spotlight,” St. Germain said. “This was one of the more classy ways we thought we’d pay tribute.”
St. Germain said the class, which has 47 expected graduates, would then be honored afterwards with a professionally-produced, pre-recorded commencement ceremony video that will be broadcast and provided to the graduating class. The school will use a wedding photographer with a background in videography, providing him with work otherwise lost as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions and phased reopening.
Production on the video is expected to begin this week.
On June 19, Stonington will celebrate its seniors with a special program hosted by Olde Mistick Village.
Superintendent of Schools Van Riley said in a letter to parents last week that plans have been confirmed for the event, which will take place around dusk (approximately 8:45 p.m.) with a rain date of June 23.
Riley credited local businessman Chris Regan with helping to coordinate the ceremony, which will be produced by Doug Jastremski of Power Posse Productions. Jastremski is a member of the Stonington High School class of ‘88.
“We still must comply with all state mandates, so there will be a one-car per graduate limit,” Riley said. “A simulcast of the event will be broadcast for family members who cannot attend. All plans must still be approved through Ledge Light Health District, once that is complete we will share the specifics about the event.”
Both districts would like to host an in-person celebration if possible, but admitted that it was not likely this year.
“Some of these kids go off as early as the first of week of August. There was just not going to be a realistic way to get them all together before some had moved on to their next stage in life,” St. Germain said. “Hopefully the alternative plan will give us a chance to still recognize each student equally.”