Caps off during Covid-19: Nease High School throws senior parade before virtual graduation

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While most graduates attend a ceremony and throw up their caps to celebrate the next chapter of their lives, the Nease High School class of 2020 improvised with carpools, honking and a drive-thru celebration in the school parking lot.

Traffic flooded out of Ray Road and onto US-1, as seniors and their families and friends inched closer to the lot. Driving in, under the welcoming balloon arch, seniors were greeted and cheered on by faculty, staff and more loved ones, holding signs, cheering and dancing to the music blaring over campus.

“With social media, the word got out really well as you could see,” said senior naval science instructor and leader of Nease’s JROTC program Scott LaRachelle, as he waved at ecstatic seniors while they rolled by.

“The faculty is spread out all over campus. Vehicles are decorated, graduates are having fun and the parents are having a great time. It’s a great turnout for everybody and it’s such a beautiful day out, too” 

Across the school in the nearby plaza parking lot, Nease senior Emily Mackenstein prepped for her time to shine. Like the main character on a Macy’s Day Parade float, she sat on the back of her family’s truck in her cap and gown, elaborately decorated in Nease colors, with balloons, 2020 decor and a giant banner dedicated in her name.

“I remember laying on the couch and thinking the last 13 years was for nothing,” Mackenstein said, looking back to when she found out her graduation was canceled.

But when the school reached out about the drive-thru parade, morale spiked up.

“It was a great way to celebrate us and say goodbye to our teachers and staff,” Mackenstein said.

Fellow graduate, Jordan Mooningham, agreed.

“It was heartbreaking [at first] because we worked so long and hard for that day,” Mooningham said, referring to the original graduation ceremony. “It was nice to see all of my classmates in a fun and memorable setting. It was also fun to see how everyone decorated their cars. I was happy they threw something to show support for the seniors and bring us all together one last time.”

Seniors in the lot and surrounding streets honked their horns, loud and proud - a sound that will forever commemorate the Nease graduating class of 2020 and the challenges they conquored during the Covid-19 crisis.

“I think everyone has gone out of their way because these kids didn’t get a traditional graduation,” said Tammie McClafferty, a proud parent on the Nease High School Senior Task Force, making sure the parade ran smoothly as she waited for her daughter to drive in.

“Oh, she’s loving it,” McClafferty said about her daughter. “This will be a memory they’ll have that will so outweigh walking down the stage. I could not be more happy with the school, faculty and students that are rolling with it. It’s not what they expected, but it’s so much more fun!”

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