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Virtual Springfield graduation aimed to make lasting memories

Carolynn Mostyn
Suburbanite correspondent
Springfield High School Class of 2020 graduate Cameron Whited holds up a sign thanking his mother during the school's virtual graduation ceremony held earlier this summer.

SPRINGFIELD TWP. For this year’s 2020 graduates, things were not traditional. But maybe the proud graduates will remember their graduation more so than the many that have graduated in the traditional pomp and circumstance of those before them.

At the conclusion of the school year, Springfield High School teachers, staff, parents, community members and administration went above and beyond to make the grads feel special.

It began with the students receiving graduation yard signs provided by Pence Fence, Uncle Tito’s and printed by Act Now Print and Promote, proclaiming they were proud graduates of Springfield High School’s class of 2020.

Due to the pandemic, the graduation program had to be virtual. The process began with each senior signing up for a time to go to the school and be filmed receiving their diploma, passing a diploma to another student (virtually) and turning their tassel.

The students were able to bring six family members to see them receive their diploma.

“We understood that for some, six people were not enough but, in turn, we have to go by the safety protocols and keeping the number of people in one area down,” high school Principal Shaun Morgan said.

Morgan said it was important to create the graduation, so all the key elements were there.

“For me, one of the key moments in a graduation is pomp and circumstance,” Morgan said. “It is when the graduate comes front and center and the crowd sees them for the first time, and everyone gets that moment.”

By doing the virtual graduation they were able to make the moment more personal than they could do at EJ Thomas, Morgan said. Each student was filmed in front of a green screen and in the background was something from their high school years or their future. Morgan gave examples of a student that was planning on going into carpentry. In the background would be woodworking things or a dental hygienist would be in a dental office or an attorney would be in a courtroom.

“We want the focus to be the graduate and what their future will be,” he said.

Each student was filmed receiving a rolled-up ribbon tied diploma and virtually passing it off to the next student.

They were filmed having their name announced and coming to the stage to receive their diploma.

“We did not have anyone hand them their diploma with social distancing,” Morgan said.

A professional photographer was there to take their picture. After receiving their diploma, students were captured tossing their hat in the air. Speeches were given such as the valedictorian, salutatorian, Board of Education president, a guest speaker, superintendent and Morgan all spoke. The band played the alma mater and choir members sang on Zoom sessions.

“To the best of our ability, we were trying to replicate what we would have done, had we had a traditional Springfield graduation,” Morgan said.

The senior class council did the turning of the tassel like it would have done at the traditional ceremony. Morgan said that signals that they go from student to graduate.

Graduates were given a T-shirt and the school gave back the senior dues that they had paid. In the graduation video, the Spartan staff virtually expressed their sendoff wishes.

Ending the virtual graduation were pictures of the graduates when they were young and now.

This year to help make the students feel special, an Adopt a Spartan Senior 2020 Project was held. It took place on Facebook and the seniors were showered with gifts and love from community members. The adopted seniors received gifts and on the Facebook page viewers can see some of the students and the gifts they received.

Top 25 program was virtual this year. In the past, the district had done a dinner at Hartville Kitchen and students have honored their influential educator. Both the educator and student spoke about each other. This year, each student read their speech about the influential educator and the teacher read their response and then it was pieced together.

Many of the Springfield students are also graduates of the Portage Lakes Career Center (PLCC) and all PLCC students were honored with a Senior Send-off Parade. The seniors were invited to load up their vehicle and drive through the PLCC campus during parade hours and the staff bid them farewell one last time. It was a socially distanced parade and was held the night that was to be the PLCC Senior Awards Ceremony. The staff made signs and placed them along the driveway. They had noise makers and a DJ and more.

PLCC began a student signing day last year. It is much like when athletes sign to attend a school or join a team. All students were honored as one or more of the three “E’s” Enrolled, Enlisted or Employed. This year the students can be seen on Facebook with what one or more of the “E’s” is a part of their future.

Springfield Class of 2020 graduated Cameron Whited gets his diploma during the school's virtual graduation ceremony.