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Sept. 21, 2020

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Circumstance dictates pomp of a different sort for Evergreen schools grads

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:
4 Photos
Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School graduate Cassandra Micah, 18, joins loved ones in her car after walking across the stage to celebrate her accomplishments at McKenzie Stadium on Wednesday morning. Evergreen Public Schools students took part in a drive-thru graduation ceremony, celebrating a year interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School graduate Cassandra Micah, 18, joins loved ones in her car after walking across the stage to celebrate her accomplishments at McKenzie Stadium on Wednesday morning. Evergreen Public Schools students took part in a drive-thru graduation ceremony, celebrating a year interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

High school seniors may have missed out on a traditional graduation ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Evergreen Public Schools wasn’t going to see students off without at least a little pomp and circumstance.

District graduates celebrated Wednesday in a socially distanced, drive-thru ceremony. One by one, students and their families drove through the parking lot at McKenzie Stadium. Students hopped out of their cars, walked across a red carpet and stage, and posed for photos before a group of mask-clad district administrators.

“They’ve given up so much,” school board Director Victoria Bradford said. “It’s nice to have something.”

Daniela Chaidez, a 17-year-old graduate from Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School, laughed as her father lay on the horn of his truck while she walked across the stage. Chaidez will attend Washington State University Vancouver (albeit at a distance) in the fall.

“It’s pretty odd, but it’s necessary,” Chaidez said of the ceremony. “It’s good they acknowledged us.”

9 Photos
Ilya Panasevich, 18, graduate of Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School, takes center stage as he pauses to have his photograph taken during a drive-through graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 at McKenzie Stadium on Wednesday morning, August 5, 2020. Panasevich was one of 147 graduates from HeLa High School this year. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian)
HeLa High School Drive-Through Graduation Photo Gallery

About 1,900 students graduated from Evergreen Public Schools high schools, which also recognized its seniors in a series of digital ceremonies in June. The district had hoped for a more traditional ceremony, but as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Clark County and elsewhere, it wasn’t safe to do so, board President Julie Bocanegra said.

“We were hoping we’d be farther along,” Bocanegra said.

Evergreen and seven other school districts in Clark County are recommending a remote start to the school year, hoping to build on the spring’s distance learning to better serve students.

“We’ve been all separated for so long,” Bradford said. “We’re coming together in the best way we can.”

Hannah Cox, another Henrietta Lacks graduate, had a tough spring. Upon finding out schools would close in March, “I cried with my friends on FaceTime for three hours.”

“It was hard,” she said. “I’ve always loved school.”

But Cox, 18, was glad for some semblance of a normal high school send-off before starting college at Washington State University Vancouver.

“It’s definitely weird, but I’m glad we’re able to celebrate,” she said.

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