COSTA MESA (CBSLA) — Orange County seniors from Newport-Mesa Unified School District mobilized in front of district headquarters Tuesday, holding signs that read “Let Us Walk.”
Some sported graduation caps, representing their hope that the school board will reverse its decision to hold virtual graduations for the four public high schools in the area. The students want to find a way to safely celebrate in person.
“If by the end of July, California is still under the stay at home policy, we want to do a drive through at least, right?” Corona Del Mar Senior Class President Henry Hobin asked the crowd, receiving cheers and claps in response. “We don’t want to go online. We really really don’t want to.”
After years of hard work, the students said they want a more intimate, in-person ceremony to send them off.
“We want to have more of an emotional feeling with it,” said senior Kristin Frederick. “We don’t want another screen. We already have homework on screens…it’s not the human connection that we are looking for.”
The students wore masks and stood six feet apart, acknowledging that they understand a traditional graduation ceremony won’t be possible. Still, they hope to be able to celebrate in person, even if some adjustments must be made.
“We know that it’s not going to be a normal graduation. We’re not asking for that,” said Jeannie Williams, another Newport-Mesa Unified senior. “We just want to wait to celebrate in person together, even if it’s a drive through.”
Hobin said that he has proposed that the school district allow students to participate in a drive-by graduation ceremony, where students, families and friends celebrate graduates from their cars and seniors receive their diplomas in a socially distanced fashion. It’s a strategy that has been implemented by other school districts in Southern California.
“More than half of the other districts in Orange County are doing what I’m proposing,” he said. “We’re all under the same county rules. It doesn’t make sense why we can’t follow the trend.”
Parents came out to support the graduates, expressing their pride and echoing their desire for an in-person celebration for their students.
“They’ve left that school without goodbyes,” said Nanci Terry. “These kids have been in the district their whole lives. They want to see the friends they grew up with.”
A district spokesperson says the graduation broadcast will give students and their families a safe way to participate. If state orders allow it, the high schools are planning for an in-person senior celebration later this summer.